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Employers Have No Excuse to Underpay Staff

Published 26 January 2017

It is illegal not to pay employees the National Minimum Wage and there can be no real excuse for doing so.

Channel 4 documentary Undercover: Britain’s Cheap Clothes scheduled to be broadcast tonight (Monday, 23 January, 2017) will expose wages and working conditions in textile factories where it is reported workers are being paid £3 an hour (1).

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 (2).

Nearly 700 organisations – including football teams and restaurants – have been fined £1.4m for not paying the National Minimum Wage (3).

But it has not stopped some dodgy employers from coming up with some pretty lame excuses when trying to explain exactly why they did so.

Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has published a list of the most bizarre excuse for underpaying staff (4).

It is part of a £1.7m awareness campaign to ensure workers know how much they are legally entitled to.

The full list of excuses is:

  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.


1. Dispatches - Episode Guide [Internet]. Channel 4. [cited 2017 Jan 26]. Available from:

2. National Minimum Wage and National Living Wage rates - GOV.UK [Internet]. [cited 2017 Jan 26]. Available from:

3. Leftly M. Nearly 700 firms fined total of £1.4m for not paying minimum wage. The Guardian [Internet]. 2017 Jan 6 [cited 2017 Jan 26]; Available from:

4. HMRC reveals 10 worst excuses for not paying the minimum wage - News stories - GOV.UK [Internet]. [cited 2017 Jan 26]. Available from:

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