Press release

Revealed: most bizarre excuses for underpaying staff the National Minimum Wage

Ten of the most bizarre excuses used by unscrupulous bosses found to have underpaid workers the National Minimum Wage have been revealed.

  • list of strangest excuses for underpaying National Minimum Wage published
  • government launches £1.7 million awareness campaign to ensure workers know how much they are legally entitled to
  • Business Minister Margot James: “There is no excuse for not paying staff properly.”

Ten of the most bizarre excuses used by unscrupulous bosses found to have underpaid workers the National Minimum Wage have today (11 January 2016) been revealed by the government.

Excuses for not paying staff the minimum wage include only wanting to pay staff when there are customers to serve and believing it was acceptable to underpay workers until they had ‘proved’ themselves.

The list has been published today to coincide with a new awareness campaign to encourage workers to check their pay to ensure they are receiving at least the statutory minimum ahead of the national minimum and national living wages rising on 1 April 2017.

The £1.7 million campaign aims to make sure workers are being paid at least the National Minimum Wage, or National Living Wage, depending on their age, and is part of the government’s commitment to making sure the economy works for all.

Investigators from HMRC have revealed some of the worst excuses given to them by employers caught out for underpaying staff, which include:

  1. The employee wasn’t a good worker so I didn’t think they deserved to be paid the National Minimum Wage.
  2. It’s part of UK culture not to pay young workers for the first 3 months as they have to prove their ‘worth’ first.
  3. I thought it was ok to pay foreign workers below the National Minimum Wage as they aren’t British and therefore don’t have the right to be paid it.
  4. She doesn’t deserve the National Minimum Wage because she only makes the teas and sweeps the floors.
  5. I’ve got an agreement with my workers that I won’t pay them the National Minimum Wage; they understand and they even signed a contract to this effect.
  6. My accountant and I speak a different language – he doesn’t understand me and that’s why he doesn’t pay my workers the correct wages.
  7. My workers like to think of themselves as being self-employed and the National Minimum Wage doesn’t apply to people who work for themselves.
  8. My workers are often just on standby when there are no customers in the shop; I only pay them for when they’re actually serving someone.
  9. My employee is still learning so they aren’t entitled to the National Minimum Wage.
  10. The National Minimum Wage doesn’t apply to my business.

By law, all workers must be paid at least £7.20 an hour if they are aged 25 years and over, or the National Minimum Wage rate relevant to their age if they are younger.

Business Minister Margot James said:

There are no excuses for underpaying staff what they are legally entitled to. This campaign will raise awareness among the lowest paid in society about what they must legally receive and I would encourage anyone who thinks they may be paid less to contact Acas as soon as possible.

Every call is followed up by HMRC and we are determined to make sure everybody in work receives a fair wage.

Workers are encouraged to regularly check their pay to ensure they are receiving at least the minimum or living wage, depending on their age.

For more information and to report underpayment, visit or contact Acas for free and impartial advice.

Notes to editors:

  1. From 1 April 2017: * The National Living Wage rate for those aged 25 years and over will increase by 30p to £7.50 per hour * For the National Minimum Wage * the rate for 21 to 24 year olds will increase by 10p to £7.05 per hour * the rate for 18 to 20 year olds will increase by 5 to £5.60 per hour * the rate for 16 to 17 year olds will increase by 5p to £4.05 per hour * the apprentice rate will increase by10p to £3.50 per hour
  2. The new rates were been recommended by the independent Low Pay Commission after careful consideration of evidence from both workers and employers.
  3. HMRC’s enforcement budget was increased from £13 million to £20 million in April 2016, increasing the number of compliance officers available to investigate NMW complaints. An additional £4.3 million in enforcement funding was announced in the last Autumn Statement.
Published 11 January 2017