Minimum wage laws are laws, not suggestions. The BBC reported on some of the interesting excuses employers have made regarding why they didn’t meet minimum wage standards and how it relates to a larger awareness campaign in the works.
HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has likely heard every excuse imaginable. Some employers have claimed ignorance about whether minimum wage requirements apply to foreign workers. Others have questioned whether the employee worked hard enough to deserve it.
Current Minimum Wage
Regardless of the reasoning, the minimum wage is set by law. As of this writing, the following minimum hourly wages were in effect:
- £7.20 for workers 25 years of age and older
- £6.95 for workers aged 21 to 24
- £5.55 for workers aged 18 to 20
- £4.00 for workers under 18
- £3.40 for apprentices
Beginning in April 2017, the rates will raise as follows:
- £7.50 for workers 25 years of age and older
- £7.05 for workers aged 21 to 24
- £5.60 for workers aged 18 to 20
- £4.05 for workers under 18
- £3.50 for apprentices
These minimums apply to all employees working in the country regardless of national origin, the type of work, and the quality of their work. Employers are allowed to pay more than the minimum wage at their discretion.
Failure to Comply with Minimum Wage Laws
Not paying the minimum wage is a violation of the law. Employers that fail to comply are subject to a fine in an amount up to £20,000 per worker. Additionally, company directors may be banned for a period of time up to 15 years, but this is not necessarily the standard treatment.
Often, the fines are seen as simple slaps on the wrist, but it may be enough to encourage those ignorant to the law to become aware.
Know Your Rights
While many see awareness campaigns like this as a reminder to businesses, it’s for the benefit of workers too. It’s important to understand what minimum wage applies to your situation. That way, should you accept a new position, you know what you are owed by law. If an employer refuses to provide compensation that meets the minimums, then the activity should be reported to the authorities.
It is important to note that the minimum wage applies to employees only. Certain contract positions and self-employment work do not receive minimum wage protection. This is one of the points behind the debates regarding Uber drivers and their status as contractors or employees, as well as rights to other benefits.
Understanding the Minimum Wage
Often, living off of just the minimum wage is challenging. In many cases, these jobs aren’t intended to be a person’s long-term career. Instead, they are a means to an end while the worker gains skills and experience. Many people who have gone on to great success worked in minimum wage positions at some point. This means these jobs should be considered stepping stones, not final destinations.
Use your time earning minimum wage to learn the intricacies of how businesses operate, and build fundamental skills that will help you in your future workplaces. Then, when the time is right, feel free to move on. You’ll appreciate the experience for what it offered, and where it ultimately takes you.