In 2017 to 2018, £15.6 million in pay was refunded to more than 200,000 of the UK’s lowest paid workers by HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC).
HMRC has already had some success in getting recalcitrant employers to pay up, more than doubling the number of underpaid workers it identified as being entitled to back pay – its investigators identified £10.9 million owed to more than 98,000 workers in the previous year.
Since 1 April, if you are a worker aged 25 and over, you should be receiving a national minimum wage of £7.83 an hour; those aged 21 to 24 should earn £7.38 an hour;18- to 20-year-olds should get an hourly rate of £4.20, while those aged 16 to 17 should get £4.20 an hour.
Industries most complained about to HMRC are restaurants, bars, hotels and hairdressers.
In March, the government named and shamed 179 employers who had failed to pay the legal minimum wage. These included household names such as TGI Friday’s, Wagamama and Marriott Hotels.
HMRC launched its online complaints service in January 2017, which has contributed to the 132% increase in the number of complaints received over the last year and the amount of money HMRC has been able to recoup for those unfairly underpaid.
The figures are published as the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and HMRC’s launches its summer ad campaign - “Complain if you are not getting the minimum wage” - designed to encourage workers to take action if they are not receiving the national living wage or the national minimum wage.
The national living wage, which is for workers over 25, is higher than the national minimum wage at £9.15 an hour in London and £7.85 in the rest of the UK.
The online campaign urges underpaid workers to complain by completing an HMRC online form.
Business minister Andrew Griffiths says: “Employers abusing the system and paying under the legal minimum are breaking the law.
“Short-changing workers is a red line for this government, and employers who cross the line will be identified by HMRC and forced to pay back every penny and could be hit with fines of up to 200% of wages owed.”
Penny Ciniewicz, director general of customer compliance at HMRC, also warns employers: “HMRC is committed to getting money back into the pockets of underpaid workers, and these figures demonstrate that we will not hesitate to take action against employers who ignore the law.
“We urge anyone who is concerned they are not being paid the correct rates to contact us in confidence through the Acas helpline or through our online complaints form.”
If you think that you are not receiving at least the minimum wage, you can contact Acas, in confidence on 0300 123 1100 for free advice or submit a query online