Tax & admin · 14 May 2018

HMRC orders employers to pay out £15.6m to underpaid workers

HMRC has identified £15.6m owed to the British workforce.

Over 200,000 UK workers receive back pay as HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) clamps down on enforcing the National Minimum Wage.

From the 2017 – 2018 tax year, HMRC has identified £15.6m owed to the British workforce, after many people across the nation have been underpaid.

At a record high, it is up from the year before where 98,000 of the UK’s lowest paid workers were underpaid over £10.9m collectively.

No matter what size of the business, t is the responsibility of employers, to pay the correct wage to their staff.

Failing to pay staff correctly can result in fines of 200 per cent of the arrears, public naming and, for the worst offences criminal prosecution.

Commenting on this, HMRC business minister, Andrew Griffiths said: “Employers abusing the system and paying under the legal minimum are breaking the law.

“Short changing workers is a red line for this government and employers who cross the line will be identified by HMRC and forced to pay back every penny, and could be hit with fines of up to 200 per cent of wages owed.

HMRC launched its complaint service in January 2017, because of this 132 per cent of complaints have risen in the last year and the amount of money given back been has doubled.

Running over summer, the online complaints tool is easy to navigate and allows for anyone to enquire about not being paid properly, with the option of reporting anonymously.

The service was designed to encourage workers to take action if they suspect they are being paid unfairly, i.e. not receiving the national living wage or minimum wage.

Industries most complained about to HMRC include restaurants, bars, hotels and hairdressing.

Penny Ciniewicz, Director General of Customer Compliance at HMRC, said: “HMRC is committed to getting money back into the pockets of underpaid workers, and these figures demonstrate that we will not hesitate to take action against employers who ignore the law.

“We urge anyone who is concerned they are not being paid the correct rates to contact us in confidence through the Acas helpline or through our online complaints form.”

For free and confidential advice call Acas on 0300 123 1100 or submit a query online.

National Living Wage and National Minimum Wage rates

From 1 April 2018, the government’s National Living Wage rate increased by 33p to £7.83 per hour for those aged 25 and over.

The National Minimum Wage increased:

  • by 33p to £7.38 per hour for those aged 21 to 24
  • by 30p to £5.90 per hour for those aged 18 to 20
  • by 15p to £4.20 per hour for those aged 16 to 17
  • by 20p to £3.70 per hour for apprentices


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Carly Hacon is a reporter for Business Advice. She has a BA in journalism from Kingston University, and has previously worked as a features editor for a local newspaper.

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