LEN McCLUSKEY, General Secretary of the Unite trade union, has given his full support to a government campaign to raise awareness of the minimum wage – but he has warned that sanctions on employers who are found out breaking the law are not acting as a deterrent. McCluskey said, “While it is good to see rogues being held to account in some way, the fines can only ever be a rap on the knuckles.”
The minimum wage must be paid to all employees. The level of the minimum wage increases with the age of the employee and current levels are:
•age 25 and over – £7.20
•age 21 to 24 inclusive – £6.95
•age 18 to 20 inclusive – £5.55
•age under 18 – £4.00
In addition, apprentices should be paid a minimum of £3.40 an hour.
The Government has been publicising some of the pathetic excuses some employers have given for not complying with the law. These include:
•She only makes the teas and sweeps the floors.
•This member of staff is not a good worker.
•Employees should prove their worth.
•It is OK acceptable to pay foreign workers less.
•My accountant doesn’t understand me as we speak different languages and that’s why he doesn’t pay my workers the correct wages.
On behalf of the Government, Business Minister Margot James said, “There are no excuses for underpaying staff what they are legally entitled to. This campaign will raise awareness among the lowest paid in society about what they must legally receive and I would encourage anyone who thinks they may be paid less to contact ACAS as soon as possible.”
Her words were reinforced by Stewart Gee of ACAS, who stressed, “Employers are breaking the law if they do not pay the national minimum wage and businesses face a maximum fine of £20,000 per worker for not paying the national living wage. Failure to pay the national living wage could also result in a company director being banned for up to 15 years.”
Len McCluskey said, “Too often, companies are skimming their profits out of the pockets of their workforce. It is a continuing reminder that, for too many working people, work in this country just does not pay.”
•At their annual conference last autumn, the Labour Party pledged to increase the minimum wage to the “level needed for a decent life”, pointing out that independent forecasts put this at over £10 an hour.