The government has created a team to crack down on employers who continually refuse to pay their workers the National Minimum Wage (NMW).
HM Revenue and Customs’ (HMRC) Dynamic Response Team will work on the most high-profile and complicated cases, particularly in areas where employers use migrant labour to undercut competitors by paying below the minimum wage.
The team will be funded from a £70m government fund, paid for by a levy on migrant workers, payable when they apply for a visa.
It will be made up of highly trained specialist officers who will work with other government departments and local authorities to ensure the most effective action is taken to deal with non-compliant employers, including civil and criminal prosecutions.
In October 2009, the National Minimum Wage increased to £5.80 for those aged 22 and over, £4.83 for those aged 18 to 21, and £3.57 for 16- and 17-year-olds.
Business minister Pat McFadden said: “Evasion hurts both workers and responsible employers who play by the rules, so we are stepping up our fight against non-payment of the minimum wage.
“The minimum wage is a key part of the government’s strategy to establish fairness in the workplace and the benefits of the minimum wage are felt by about one million workers every year, especially women and part-time workers.”
Communities secretary John Denham said: “Tackling the abuse of migrant workers is an important part of building a fair society. Employers undercutting the wages of local workers put unfair pressure on businesses struggling to compete, and cause resentment in the community.”
About one million low paid workers benefit from the minimum wage. Since April the HMRC has helped about 14,000 workers re-coup over £3.5m of wage arrears. This included more than £640,000 alone in the hospitality sector – an industry noted for low pay.