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Minimum wage – HMRC “naming and shaming”
A group of 25 employers, including a school, a retail outlet and a construction firm, have recently been “named and shamed” for failing to pay employees the minimum wage. In total, the employers owed workers more than £43,000 in outstanding pay and they will also have to pay fines worth more than £21,000.

HMRC investigated wage underpayments after workers complained to its confidential helpline. The introduction of tougher rules last October means that as well as being publicly named for failing to pay the legally required amount, employers could be fined up to £20,000 for each employee they have underpaid. This is four times the amount of financial penalties previously faced by employers.

It is therefore even more important for employers to ensure that they pay staff correctly – including for travelling time between assignments or if they are required to be on the premises but not actually working (e.g. overnight emergency cover.)

Don’t forget that (with the exception of charity volunteers) interns are entitled to receive the minimum wage if they are workers. Whether somebody is a worker does not depend on the job title: calling a person an 'unpaid intern' or 'volunteer' is not relevant if in reality they are a worker. If you are not sure whether someone falls into this category ask advice from your HR or legal advisor.

However, genuine ‘work shadowing’, which does not involve any work being performed, will not qualify for the minimum wage. Unpaid work experience is usually something done as part of a recognised course of study. In fact a motion to limit unpaid work experience was successfully passed in Parliament in May by 181 votes to 19. The motion proposed that unpaid work experience should last no longer than four weeks, after which time the individual is considered an intern and is entitled to the national minimum wage. We will have to wait and see whether this becomes law, but it does give a strong indication as to the Government’s thinking on this issue.
Posted on 19 Nov 2016

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