Official figures 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 missed out on being paid at least the minimum wage rate, the highest number since the statutory rate was introduced in 1999.
On average individual workers were owed just under £100, but the average arrears per employer increased from just over £4,000 in 2016/17 to more than £6,500 last year.
Employers were fined £14m for not meeting their obligations regarding national minimum wage, which was also a record amount and more than three times the figure for the previous year. More than 600 employers were found to have underpaid their workers.
They must pay back the amount owed to staff at current national minimum wage rates and will face penalties of up to 200% of arrears, capped at £20,000 per worker.
Business minister Kelly Tolhurst has urged firms to check that they are getting worker’s pay right.
She said: “We are dedicated to stopping underpayment of the minimum wage. 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.”
HMRC began “naming and shaming” employers who failed to pay the national minimum wage, and later the national living wage for those aged 25 and over, in 2014.
Organisations including Card Factory, Odeon & UCI Cinema Group and Wagamama were among the hundreds of employers that appeared on HMRC’s list for last year.
Recently the Government has focused its enforcement activities on employers in social care, the gig economy, retail and warehousing where the underpayment is thought to be more widespread.
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