HMRC reveals the bizarre excuses employers give for not paying NMW

18 August 2021

Following the latest naming round, which listed the names of organisations who paid staff less than the National Minimum Wage (NMW), HMRC has released a list of  strange excuses that businesses have given for failure to pay at minimum wage rates. 

HMRC recognises that the vast majority of employers ensure they pay their employees at least the NMW, but, in tax year 2020-21, it has helped over 155,000 workers in the UK to recover more than £16 million in pay they were entitled to. In addition, it has issued over £14 million in penalties.

The most absurd excuses for not meeting NMW obligations are as follows:

•    “She does not deserve the NMW because she only makes the teas and sweeps the floors”
•    “The employee was not a good worker, so I did not think they deserved to be paid the NMW”
•    “My accountant and I speak a different language – he does not understand me, and that is why he does not pay my workers the correct wages”
•    “My employee is still learning so they are not entitled to the NMW”
•    “It is part of UK culture not to pay young workers for the first three months as they have to prove their ‘worth’ first”
•    “The NMW does not apply to my business”
•    “I have got an agreement with my workers that I will not pay them the NMW; they understand, and they even signed a contract to this effect”
•    “I thought it was okay to pay young workers below the NMW as they are not British and therefore do not have the right to be paid it”
•    “My workers like to think of themselves as being self-employed and the NMW does not apply to people who work for themselves”
•    “My workers are often just on standby when there are no customers in the shop; I only pay them for when they are actually serving someone”

HMRC is currently encouraging workers to check the hourly rate of pay they receive, and to check any deductions or unpaid working time. If they are not being paid what they are entitled to, then they can complain via GOV.UK.

Guidance on NMW is also available online.

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