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National Minimum Wage Enforcement

Volume 671: debated on Tuesday 11 February 2020

I am writing to inform the House of changes to national minimum wage enforcement. We want to make it as easy as possible for businesses particularly small and medium sized enterprises to comply with the law, whilst ensuring that workers get the wages that they are entitled to, and if they don’t, we will continue to crack down on companies that underpay their workers.

Last year, we consulted on specific aspects of the national minimum wage regulations (salaried hours and salary sacrifice). Following this consultation, we are making technical changes to the national minimum wage regulations. These changes will address areas of the regulations that are tripping up employers, without reducing worker protections. Businesses are supportive of these technical changes.

Salaried workers must be paid an annual salary for working a particular number of hours over the course of a year and paid in equal instalments. Changes to the regulations will widen the range of pay arrangements that are compatible with workers being treated as salaried hours workers to increase flexibility for the worker and employers, including:

increasing the range of compatible payment cycles to salaried hours workers, such as every two weeks or four weeks—currently only monthly or weekly payment cycles are compatible;

making premium payments to salaried hours workers compatible—such as for working on bank holidays—including where a salaried hours worker’s contract specifies a premium pay arrangement; and

enabling employers to specify the “calculation year” for their salaried workers, the reference point to identify when in a year a worker’s basic annual hours, for which they receive their salary, are exceeded.

The Government will also continue to name employers who fail to pay the national minimum wage, following a review of the scheme. We are making the public naming scheme more effective. We are increasing the frequency of naming those companies who underpay, and from now on, the threshold for naming employers who do not pay national minimum wage will rise to £500, meaning that any firm which owes arrears of more than £500 in national minimum wage payments to its workforce will be named. Whilst still tough on business, this will ensure that those that underpay by a minimal amount can set things right and correct their mistakes.

We recognise that there is a need to educate employers and support them to comply before enforcement action becomes necessary. To achieve this, future naming rounds will be supported by a quarterly educational bulletin to highlight details of common compliance issues, including anonymised case studies demonstrating how employers can become compliant. To better contextualise the relative severity of breaches we will publish additional information wherever possible.

Finally, as part of our drive to support businesses to comply with the legislation we are:

providing support via a helpline for employers who operate deduction or salary sacrifice schemes. Employers will be able to access support and information directly from HMRC;

requesting HMRC to do more to proactively support new, small businesses. HMRC will visit selected new, small businesses to educate them on the national minimum wage and support those businesses in getting their practices right from the start; and

producing enhanced, business facing national minimum wage guidance, which will be published shortly.

We will continue to look at these issues; for salary sacrifice and deductions we are waiving financial penalties for employers for certain breaches of rules—subject to eligibility criteria—recognising that, in some limited instances, employers may be penalised for offering these benefit schemes to workers and misunderstanding the rules. For example, those that offer a benefit to their workers, such as nurseries offering discounted childcare for staff, may find that they have inadvertently breached pay rules, as they make deductions which takes the take-home pay below minimum wage. Subject to strict criteria, including that the worker opted into the scheme, we will waive financial penalties for such breaches.

We are determined to increase compliance, whilst ensuring workers receive the pay they are entitled to, continuing to be tough on enforcement with companies that break the rules.