After revealing a list of companies which have failed to pay staff the National Minimum Wage, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs have now released some excuses employers have given to justify not paying this.

HMRC have reiterated the need for businesses to pay all employees the National Minimum Wage after it recently exposed various employers, including John Lewis and Pret A Manger, for failing to do so.

As such, the body have released a list of “absurd excuses” employers have given to justify refusing to pay staff Minimum Wage which included:

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

Steve Timewell, Director Individuals and Small Business Compliance, HMRC, emphasised that “less scrupulous businesses” will not be able to get away with underpaying staff:

The majority of UK employers pay their workers at least the National Minimum Wage, but this list shows some of the excuses provided to our enforcement officers by less scrupulous businesses. Being underpaid is no joke for workers, so we always apply the law and take action. Workers cannot be asked or told to sign-away their rights.

We are making sure that workers are being paid what they are entitled to and, as the economy reopens, reminding employers of the rules and the help that is available to them.

HMRC reviews every complaint made about the minimum wage, so if you think you are being short-changed, or are a business that is unsure of the rules or needs help to get things right, get in touch and we will help you. But any employer deliberately or unapologetically underpaying their staff will face hefty fines and other enforcement action.

At this time, the current National Minimum Wage is £8.91 for anyone aged 23 or over, £8.36 for people aged between 21 and 22, £6.56 for workers aged 18-20, £4.62 for people aged under 18 and £4.30 for apprentices.

HMRC have stated the body has helped over 155,000 workers to receive the correct amount of pay between 2020-2021 and has issued over £14 million in penalties for businesses which have refused to adhere to the law.





Monica Sharma is an English Literature graduate from the University of Warwick. As Editor for HRreview, her particular interests in HR include issues concerning diversity, employment law and wellbeing in the workplace. Alongside this, she has written for student publications in both England and Canada. Monica has also presented her academic work concerning the relationship between legal systems, sexual harassment and racism at a university conference at the University of Western Ontario, Canada.