Employers forced to pay as wage monitoring improves

Employers have been forced to pay out nearly £5m in salary arrears to staff
who have received less than the National Minimum Wage since its introduction in
April 1999.

New figures released by the Department of Trade and Industry show that the
Government is improving its monitoring role, with more than £3m being recovered
by compliance officers in the year from April 2000 to April 2001 – an increase
of £1.8m on the previous year.

The compliance teams completed more than 7,000 investigations as a result of
complaints made to a DTI helpline, compared to 6,000 the previous year.

While the average arrears that employers fail to pay has in-creased by over
£200 to £418 in 2000/01, the number of complaints against organisations fell.

John Philpott, the CIPD’s chief economist, said, "The rise in salary
arrears reflects the fact that full employment has gone up, meaning more
marginal workers are drawn into the labour market, who may be working for
employers who deliberately under-pay them."

He believes that the decrease in complaints against employers suggests that
workers on the fringe of the labour market are less aware of their rights and
less likely to complain to the DTI.

The CBI has called for tougher enforcement of the minimum wage, as it is
good for business.

John Cridland, CBI deputy director-general, said, "Cowboy employers who
don’t pay the minimum wage are not doing anyone any favours. They undercut the
vast majority of companies which are, of course, obeying the law."

Employment relations minister Alan Johnson said, "I’m delighted that
the overall number of complaints is falling, but the Government will not rest
on its laurels. We are determined to root out bad bosses and eradicate pockets
of poverty pay."


By Karen Higginbottom

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