HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has launched a campaign urging those working in the UK to check they were paid correctly last year, following research which uncovered thousands of underpayments in Belfast alone in the 2021-2 financial year.
As part of its regular compliance activity, HMRC discovered that 6,800 minimum wage employees were underpaid last year, amounting to a total of £406,000. This resulted in penalties of more than £315,000 for employers concerned.
Marc Gill, director of individuals and small business compliance at HMRC, said: “We want Belfast workers to get the pay they are due, especially in these difficult times, which is why we are encouraging employers to use our checklist.
“We know the last few years have been difficult for businesses of all sizes, but it is important that employers pay the correct minimum wage to their staff. The checklist will assist them in identifying any possible mistakes and help them to get it right.”
Following up on the issue, HMRC released a guide outlining four common causes of minimum wage unemployment, as well as a call to action campaign aimed at employees, encouraging them to take an active role in weeding out potential underpayment and holding employers to account.
The four common causes of underpayment outlined were: extra time added onto the beginning or end of shifts; travel time; time spent training; and paying for items connected with work.
The ‘Check your pay’ campaign urges employees to contact either HMRC or call the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) helpline for confidential advice on pay and rights.
The campaign also outlines steps for apprentices, who are currently entitled to £4.81 per hour, set to rise to £5.28 in April. This came at the same time as research by the London Progression Collaboration found that 78% of the public agreed they could not live on this amount, while 61% thought apprentices should simply be placed on the national minimum wage.
According to the London Progression Collaboration, this could also help with the minimum wage compliance issues uncovered by HMRC, as having multiple tiers of legal minimum pay has caused high levels of non-compliance in recent years.
Anna Ambrose, director of the London Progression Collaboration, said: “Apprentices are entitled to a fair wage and the government needs to protect them by scrapping the apprenticeship minimum wage.
She added: “There are skills shortages across the country in social care, construction and hospitality. If the Government is serious about protecting the vulnerable, building new homes and saving the high street, upskilling our national workforce is essential.”