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UK – Fines quadrupled for employers breaching minimum wage

20 January 2014

Rogue employers who do not pay their workers the national minimum wage (NMW) will face an increased penalty of up to £20,000 as part of government’s crackdown on employers who break the law.

Currently employers who break NMW law must pay the unpaid wages plus a financial penalty calculated as 50% of the total underpayment for all workers found to be underpaid. The maximum penalty an employer can face is £5,000.

Following an announcement by the Prime Minister before Christmas, the government will increase the financial penalty percentage from 50% to 100% of the unpaid wages owed to workers. The maximum penalty will increase from £5,000 to £20,000. Regulations introducing these new limits are subject to Parliamentary approval and are expected to come into force in February 2014.

The government also wants to go further and will bring in legislation at the earliest opportunity so that the maximum £20,000 penalty can apply to each underpaid worker.

Business Secretary Vince Cable commented: “Anyone entitled to the National Minimum Wage should receive it. Paying anything less than this is unacceptable, illegal and will be punished by law. So we are bringing in tougher financial penalties to crackdown on those who do not play by the rules. The message is clear – if you break the law, you will face action.”

“As well as higher penalties, we have made it easier to name and shame employers who fail to pay their workers what they are due. We are working with HM Revenue and Customs to investigate non-compliance and facilitate prosecutions in the most serious of cases. We also make sure that every complaint made to the free and confidential Pay and Work Rights Helpline is looked at.”

“The National Minimum Wage plays an important role in supporting low-paid workers whilst making sure they can still find work. Enforcing this is a key to fairness in our workforce,” he concluded.

The intention, according to the announcement, is to penalise those with the highest levels of arrears. Employers who are found to have made underpayments of more than £20,000 to any worker after the new laws come into force will not only pay the new higher level of penalties but will face this penalty for each worker. Where the underpayment for any individual worker or group of workers exceeds £20,000 the penalty will be restricted to £20,000 in relation to that worker or group. 

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