Official figures published in recent days have revealed that a record £15.6 million of underpayment to workers has been uncovered in the past year, prompting huge fines against employers.
In total, 200,000 workers have missed out on being paid at least the National Minimum Wage (NMW) in the past year – the highest number on record since the statutory rate was first introduced back in 1999.
In its report, HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) said that social care, commercial warehousing and the so-called ‘gig economy’ were the three key sectors where businesses appeared to be underpaying their staff.
The tax authority said that it was prioritising NMW enforcement in these areas, while also investigating the underpayment of apprentices and migrant workers.
Last year, businesses were fined £14 million over the failings, as well as having to reimburse their staff for any money owed.
The Government said funding for enforcement was at record levels, rising to £26.3 million in 2018/19, up from £20 million in 2016/17.
Earlier this year, restaurant chains Wagamama and TGI Fridays were both fined an undisclosed figure for failing to pay their staff the NMW.
The current minimum wage rates per hour are £7.83 for those aged 25 and over, £7.38 for 21-24-year-olds, £5.90 for 18-20-year-olds and £4.20 for 16-17-year-olds. Apprentices are entitled to receive £3.70.
Business minister Kelly Tolhurst has urged firms to check that they are paying all of their workers correctly.
She said: “We are dedicated to stopping underpayment of the NMW. Employers must recognise their responsibilities and pay their workers the money they are entitled to.
“The UK’s lowest-paid workers have had the fastest wage growth in 20 years thanks to the National Living Wage, and today’s figures serve as a reminder to all employers to check they are getting their workers’ pay right.”