A nationwide campaign to increase low-paid workers’ understanding of their rights around pay has been launched by the government.
The national advertising campaign – which will be carried on public transport, in shopping centres and other public places – is being rolled out ahead of the government’s National Minimum and National Living Wage rates rising on 1 April.
It comes as a new poll for the government shows many people in low-paid work are confused about when they should be paid and what deductions from their pay packets can legally be made.
The poll of more than 1,400 workers earning less than £15,000 found:
• 69% didn’t know they should be paid for travel time between appointments.
• 57% didn’t know having money deducted from their wages to cover the costs of their uniform is unlawful if it takes their earnings under the National Minimum or National Living Wage.
• 48% didn’t know that tips can’t be used to top up pay to the legal minimum.
Some of the most common excuses given to HMRC by employers for underpaying workers include using tips to top up pay to the minimum wage, making staff pay for their uniforms out of their salary which takes them below the legal minimum, not paying for shutting up shop or for time waiting for security checks, or the time spent travelling from one appointment to another.
In light of this, the campaign highlights some of the most common examples when a worker may be underpaid the legal minimum in a bid to encourage workers to check their pay.
Business minister Margot James (pictured) said:
“We are determined to make sure everybody in work receives a fair wage and while most employers get it right, there are still a small number who fail to play by the rules. This campaign will raise awareness among the lowest paid people in society about what they must legally receive.
“Anyone who thinks they may be paid less than the legal minimum should contact Acas as soon as possible.”
Jennie Granger, director general for customer compliance at HMRC, said:
“Paying the National Minimum Wage is the law – it’s not a choice. Employers must pay their workers what they’re entitled to and follow the rules.
“We will act to ensure ripped-off workers receive their proper pay and hardworking businesses are not losing out to dodgy dealers who cheat their staff.”
Ahead of 1 April, when the National Minimum and Living Wage rates go up, workers are encouraged to check their pay, speak to their boss about the rate rise and report underpayment to Acas, the independent workplace advisory service.
Stewart Gee, head of guidance at Acas, said:
“We welcome this new government awareness campaign as it is important for employers to stay within the law and for workers to be fully aware of the pay that they are legally entitled to.
“Acas has free and impartial advice for both employers and employees on the correct National Minimum and Living Wage rates and advice for workers on what they can do if they feel that they are not being paid correctly.”