HMRC announces the top 10 worst excuses for not paying minimum wage

By Matthew Thompson | 3rd April 2014 | 8 min read

To coincide with the 15th anniversary of the introduction of the National Minimum Wage (NMW), HMRC officers have compiled a list of ten of the most elaborate and ridiculous excuses they have received from employers who are not paying the minimum wage.

  1. An employer said a woman on the premises was not entitled to NMW as she was his wife. When asked what his wife’s name was, the employer said: “Err, her name? What’s your name, love?”
  2. One employer told HMRC: “My employees don’t speak English, so they’re not entitled to it.”
  3. An employee ran out of the premises when HMRC officers arrived to check for NMW infringements. The same employee then returned – minus the work pinafore – with the employer claiming they were a customer.
  4. Another employer told HMRC: “When the NMW goes up I do increase the amount I pay a little, even if the total pay is still below the NMW. I don’t think it’s right to ignore rises in NMW.”
  5. Upon inspection, an employer told HMRC: “I know I am paying them too little, but they are happy to work for this amount because they are getting experience.”
  6. An employer said his employee was just working for a few days, with a view to buying the business. When HMRC checked food safety records, the employee’s name was found on historic food temperature records.
  7. An employer claimed they realised they were not paying employees NMW and had just this week increased their wages…to an hourly rate which was still below the minimum wage.
  8. An employer told HMRC: “It wasn’t a conscious decision to say ‘I’m not going to pay this’, but I’ve never really considered doing it because I’ve not had people come to me and say, ‘I’m not getting paid enough’ or ‘Is this the minimum wage?’”
  9. One employer claimed an employee was just a friend, and only in the restaurant as they were in the area. HMRC officers returned another day to find the employee in the kitchen preparing food.
  10. A number of employers claimed that accommodation they provided workers made up for their shortfall in wages.

A spokesperson for HMRC said: "Most employers are honest and pay their staff the correct rate. But this research shows that some still view the National Minimum Wage as a choice, and will even try these crazy excuses to avoid paying workers what they are due. 

 Last year, HMRC’s investigations resulted in over 26,000 people getting a share of £4 million in back pay. HMRC investigate all complaints of employers failing to pay the minimum wage. We will take action to recover back pay for employees and fine employers who are not playing by the rules."


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