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HMRC internal manual

National Minimum Wage Manual

Enforcement & Proceedings: Enforcement using criminal proceedings

Relevant legislation

The legislation that applies to this page is as follows:

* National Minimum Wage Act 1998, section 31 


Civil powers and enforcement is sufficient in the great majority of cases. However, for the small minority of employers that are persistently non-compliant and/or refuse to cooperate with a NMW Officer, criminal investigation (NMWM12250) may be appropriate.

Criminal investigations are undertaken by specialist officers in HM Revenue & Customs (NMWM02030) who use the NMW Officer’s investigation as a basis to launch a criminal investigation.

HM Revenue & Customs are not responsible for deciding whether there is sufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of success of conviction and whether a prosecution is in the public interest. The decision whether to bring a criminal prosecution is made by an independent prosecuting authority;

  • In England and Wales this is the Crown Prosecution Service.
  • In Scotland it is the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service.
  • In Northern Ireland it is the Public Prosecution Service for Northern Ireland.

Criminal cases have a high standard of evidence and are most commonly heard in the magistrates’ court local to where the offence is said to have been committed. The fine on conviction for each offence is up to £5,000.

However, from 6 April 2009 the national minimum wage legislation was amended so that the most serious cases can be heard at the Crown Court where there is no limit on the fine that can be imposed on conviction.