‘She only makes tea’: worst excuses for not paying UK minimum wage revealed

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Employers’ worst excuses for paying under the minimum wage have been revealed by ministers on the eve of a £1.7m advertising drive to encourage workers to check they are being paid the legal rate, the Guardian reports.

Underpaying bosses told officials that they thought the minimum wage didn’t apply to foreign workers; that they didn’t pay shop workers when there were no customers to serve; and in one case “she doesn’t deserve the national minimum wage because she only makes the teas and sweeps the floors”, according to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

Since February 2013, the government has fined nearly 700 firms a total of £1.3m for underpayment and forced them to pay back £3.5m in missing wages. But MPs have claimed the system is not tough enough and workers have complained that bosses are often given the benefit of the doubt.

The new campaign will feature bus and billboard advertising starting next month and comes ahead of an increase in the national minimum wage for over-24s to £7.50 an hour on 1 April.

“There are no excuses for underpaying staff what they are legally entitled to,” said the business minister, Margot James. “This campaign will raise awareness among the lowest-paid in society about what they must legally receive and I would encourage anyone who thinks they may be paid less to contact Acas as soon as possible. Every call is followed up by HMRC and we are determined to make sure everybody in work receives a fair wage.”

Among the excuses heard by HMRC inspectors was a claim “the employee wasn’t a good worker so I didn’t think they deserved to be paid the national minimum wage” and “I thought it was OK to pay foreign workers below the national minimum wage as they aren’t British and therefore don’t have the right to be paid it”.

The new campaign will feature bus and billboard advertising starting next month and comes ahead of an increase in the national minimum wage for over-24s to £7.50 an hour on 1 April.

“There are no excuses for underpaying staff what they are legally entitled to,” said the business minister, Margot James. “This campaign will raise awareness among the lowest-paid in society about what they must legally receive and I would encourage anyone who thinks they may be paid less to contact Acas as soon as possible. Every call is followed up by HMRC and we are determined to make sure everybody in work receives a fair wage.”

Among the excuses heard by HMRC inspectors was a claim “the employee wasn’t a good worker so I didn’t think they deserved to be paid the national minimum wage” and “I thought it was OK to pay foreign workers below the national minimum wage as they aren’t British and therefore don’t have the right to be paid it”.

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