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How High Street Employers Are Not Paying Minimum Wage

The minimum wage is a legal right for all workers in the UK, regardless of their age, occupation or contract type. It is designed to ensure that everyone receives a fair and decent pay for their work. However, some employers are not complying with the law and are underpaying their staff, leaving them out of pocket and feeling exploited.

In June 2023, the Department for Business and Trade (DBT) published a list of 202 employers who failed to pay their workers almost £5 million in total between 2017 and 2019. This was a clear breach of National Minimum Wage law, which requires employers to pay at least:
- £10.42per hour for workers aged 23 and over
- £10.18 for those aged 21 to 22
- £7.49 for those aged 18 to 20
- £5.28 for those under 18
- £5.28 for apprentices
The list included some major high street brands, such as Argos, Lloyds Pharmacy, WH Smith and Marks and Spencer, as well as small businesses and sole traders. The DBT said that all the offending companies faced penalties of nearly £7 million and had to reimburse workers the money they were owed. The DBT also said that it would continue to name and shame employers who break the law and urged workers to check their pay and report any underpayment.

The reasons for the underpayment varied from employer to employer, but some of the most common ones were:

- Deducting pay from workers' wages for uniforms or other expenses

- Not paying workers for their full hours worked, including overtime, training or travel time

- Paying workers below the correct rate for their age group or apprenticeship level

- Making errors in payroll systems or calculations

Some of the employers claimed that the underpayment was unintentional and due to technical issues or misunderstandings of the law. They said that they had rectified the problem as soon as they became aware of it and had reimbursed their staff. However, this does not excuse them from their legal obligation to pay their workers correctly and on time.

The DBT said that it was working with HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) to enforce the minimum wage law and to provide guidance and support to employers and workers on how to comply with it. The DBT also said that it had increased the minimum wage by the highest ever rate from 1 April 2023, though still below inflation.

The minimum wage is a vital protection for low-paid workers and a key driver of social justice and economic growth. It is unacceptable that some employers are not respecting it and are taking advantage of their staff. Workers should not have to suffer in silence and should report any underpayment to HMRC or Acas. Employers should not risk their reputation and face hefty fines by breaking the law. They should pay their staff fairly and legally, or face the consequences.

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: Pitman Training (2023). What is the Minimum Wage in the UK 2023? Retrieved from

: Low Pay Commission (2022). Minimum wage rates for 2023. Retrieved from

: BBC News (2023). What is the minimum wage and how much is it? Retrieved from

: Shiftbase (2023). Minimum Wage UK In 2023 - Everything You Need To Know. Retrieved from

: Metro News (2023). High street companies failing to pay minimum wage 'named and shamed'. Retrieved from

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