More than 22,000 workers denied the National Minimum Wage (NMW) have received £4.6m in unpaid wages following an HMRC crackdown.
HMRC conducted 1,455 NMW investigations in 2013/14 and found arrears in 47% of cases – the highest strike rate since NMW was introduced.
During the period, HMRC issued 652 financial penalties worth £815,269 and recovered average arrears of around £205 per worker.
Jennie Granger, director of enforcement and compliance at HMRC, said: “Paying the National Minimum Wage is not a choice – it’s the law. HMRC will continue to ensure that workers get at least the wage to which they are legally entitled.
“Where an employer ignores these rules, we will ensure that any arrears are paid out in full and the employer is fined. Rogue employers be warned – we will find you and you will pay.”
In one case a social care provider had not paid its staff for travelling time and other hours worked and was told to repay over £600,000 to almost 3,000 workers.
And a recruitment agency was ordered to pay £167,000 to workers, including some it had classified as unpaid interns.
As a result of the investigations, TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady is calling for further action to be taken by the government and for employers that knowingly underpay their staff to be named and shamed.
“Nearly a million UK workers rely on the national minimum wage, which has become a vital lifeline. There must be no hiding places for companies who flout it.
“The action taken by HMRC is a welcome step but must be the beginning of a concerted campaign that also raises awareness about the right to a legal wage among those being exploited.”