31 July 2013
While most of us would expect to be punished if we committed a crime, it appears this is simply not the reality for employers.
In an interview with the Observer, Business Secretary Vince Cable announced reforms that will punish employers who break the law on the minimum wage. The newspaper reported that no one has been prosecuted for paying less than the statutory rate for two years, despite evidence that around 250,000 workers are on illegally poor salaries.
Cable promised that the new laws, which are expected to come into effect this autumn, will mean employers found to be paying lower than the minimum wage will be named and shamed on government websites, then taken to court and fined if they do not reimburse their staff. The Minister will probably also propose that it no longer needs to be proven that the breach of law was due to negligence, as all offences will be treated the same way, deliberate or not.
But this is not the first time such an idea has been proposed. In fact, in 2010 the government said it would name and shame employers refusing to pay minimum wage, but in all that time it has only highlighted one case.
Despite this, the Business Secretary told the Observer: “Paying any less than the minimum wage is illegal, and the government takes this very seriously. Employers need to understand that they will be investigated and prosecuted if they flout the law. Workers need to be confident that they’ll be supported if they make a complaint.”
He promised that his department is “simplifying the criteria and making it easier to prosecute”.