Figures show record number of underpaid workers

The number of underpaid workers in the UK has more than doubled since 2016/17, according to official figures.

HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) said it had identified £15.6 million in pay owed to more than a record 200,000 of the UK’s lowest paid workers – up from £10.9 million for around 98,000 workers the previous tax year.

The tax office said its complaint service, launched in January 2017, contributed to the 132 per cent increase in the number of underpayment complaints.

HMRC is in the midst of a new campaign calling on workers to use its complaints service if they suspect underpayment, meaning companies should take due care to ensure it is paying its workforce correctly.

Employers found to have paid less than the National Minimum Wage (NMW) face fines up to 200 per cent of the wages owed, as well as repaying a worker’s salary where it is due.

Business Minister Andrew Griffiths said: “Employers abusing the system and paying under the legal minimum are breaking the law. Short changing workers is a red line for this government and employers who cross the line will be identified by HMRC and forced to pay back every penny, and could be hit with fines of up to 200% of wages owed.”

Penny Ciniewicz, Director General of Customer Compliance at HMRC, said: “HMRC is committed to getting money back into the pockets of underpaid workers, and these figures demonstrate that we will not hesitate to take action against employers who ignore the law.”

Earlier this year, a report proved that it is not only small business who struggle with meeting their legal obligations. The document showed that Wagamama failed to pay some £133,212 to 2,630 workers, while Marriott Hotels failed to pay £71,722 to 279 workers.

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Maung Aye
Maung is a partner in our Corporate and Commercial department. He joined Mackrell Turner Garrett following corporate law positions in London and in a leading regional firm in Essex. Maung read European Legal Studies at Lancaster University and the Università degli Studi di Trento and is a fluent Italian speaker.