HR · 11 January 2017

“She only makes teas” – The worst excuses for underpaying staff revealed

National minimum and living wage rates are set to go up on 1 April

Marking the launch of a new government campaign to ensure British workers are paid at least the National Minimum Wage (NMW), Business Advice can reveal the most ludicrous and worst excuses for underpaying staff, published by HMRC.

From a desire to pay employees only when there are customers to serve, to seeing it as acceptable to hold back workers’ pay until they’ve “proved themselves”, the worst excuses for underpaying staff are each more bizarre than the last.

Aimed at cracking down on the unscrupulous bosses that make such excuses, whilst encouraging employees to double check their pay packets to make sure they’re receiving the statutory minimum, the government has thrown £1.7m behind the campaign.

To coincide with the campaign’s launch, small business minister Margot James has stated that there should be no excuses for failing to pay workers what they’re entitled to.

“This campaign will raise awareness among the lowest paid in society about what they must legally receive, and we are determined to make sure everybody in work receives a fair wage,” James said in a statement.

By law, all UK workers aged 25 and over must be paid at least £7.20 an hour, or the NMW rate relevant to their age if they are younger. Both the national minimum and national living wage rates are set to officially rise on 1 April 2017.

The ten worst excuses for underpaying staff the minimum wage, used by bosses

(1) The employee wasn’t a good worker so I didn’t think they deserved to be paid the minimum wage

(2) It’s part of UK culture not to pay young workers for the first three months as they have to “prove their worth” first

(3) I thought it was ok to pay foreign workers below NMW as they aren’t British and therefore don’t have the right to be paid it

(4) She doesn’t deserve the NMW because she only makes the teas and sweeps the floors

(5) I’ve got an agreement with my workers that I won’t pay them the NMW – they understand and have even signed a contract to this effect

(6) My accountant and I speak a different language – he doesn’t understand me and therefore doesn’t pay my workers the correct wages

(7) My workers like to think of themselves as being self-employed and the NMW doesn’t apply to people who work for themselves

(8) My workers are often just on standby when there are no customers in the shop so I only pay them for when they’re actually serving someone

(9) My employee is still learning so they aren’t entitled to the NMW

(10) The minimum wage doesn’t apply to my business

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Fred Heritage was previously deputy editor at Business Advice. He has a BA in politics and international relations from the University of Kent and an MA in international conflict from Kings College London.