Over 26,000 workers denied the national minimum wage by employers have received a £4m windfall following action taken by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).
During 2012-2013, HRMC investigated 1,693 complaints against employers that had allegedly breached the minimum wage laws.
Jo Swinson, employment minister, said that paying anything less than the minimum wage “is totally unacceptable”.
“Supporting fairness in the workplace is one our key priorities and the National Minimum Wage is one way of making sure this happens. It supports as many workers as possible without damaging their employment prospects, which is why effectively enforcing the minimum wage is critically important in making sure it stays a success.”
Throughout 2012-2013, HMRC found that 708 employers were abusing the National Minimum Wage rules and handed out financial penalties as a result.
51 of those employers were fined the maximum amount allowed by law – £5,000. 26,519 employees received an average of £300 in back pay, topping up wages that had previously not met the minimum level.
The national minimum wage in the UK is £6.19 an hour for workers aged 21 and over – due to increase to £6.31 an hour from 1 October 2013.
Michelle Wyer, assistant director of HMRC’s national minimum wage team, said: “Paying the national minimum wage is not a choice – it’s the law. HMRC enforces the rules, protecting workers from rogue employers, ensuring they get at least the wage to which they are legally entitled.”
In one case, a multi-outlet retailer which required employees to purchase specific items of clothing from its range, was ordered to repay almost £170,000 for more than 6,000 workers.