Belfast Telegraph

Flouting minimum wage shameful

It feels like the minimum wage – at present £6.31 per hour for those aged 21 and over – has always been with us.

In fact, it only dates back to 1999 when it was introduced by New Labour at £3.60 per hour for the over-21s. But research from the HMRC reminds us it's not something everyone can take for granted.

HMRC found that some chancers were failing to pay the minimum wage for reasons varying from the racist and xenophobic – with one saying he didn't think you had to pay it to non-English speakers – to the gormless, with one failing to pay it to his wife. The taxman has warned that the minimum wage isn't a choice, and that anyone who fails to stick to statute could be fined and ordered to pay back their employees. In fact, about £4m in back pay was handed out last year.

HMRC published some of the cringiest explanations for not paying up. One employee, clearly wearing a work pinafore, fled the building on seeing the taxman approach, and returned later pretending to be a customer– minus their work attire.

Business Secretary Vince Cable said: "Paying less than the minimum wage is illegal. If employers break the law they need to know that they will face serious consequences.

"This is why we have introduced tough new enforcement measures against rogue employers. These include the new naming scheme and the introduction of higher financial penalties."

None of us can pretend to be overly fond of the taxman or his investigations – but the payment of the minimum wage is one issue on which there can be no equivocation.

Belfast Telegraph