The Low Pay Commission recently published its second NMW non-compliance and enforcement report, which revealed that the number of people paid less than the statutory minimum wage increased in 2018.

It called on the government to:

  • improve the way in which underpayments are measured to make it easier to assess the scale of noncompliance
  • publicise information about the NMW to help workers understand what they should be paid
  • find out why workers aren’t complaining and work with trade unions, Acas and other bodies to encourage them to do so
  • improve guidance available to employers to help them understand the rules
  • restart naming and shaming employers who don’t comply with the NMW

The last list was published, almost a year ago, in July 2018. At that time, the government trumpeted the fact that 239 employers were found to have underpaid 22,400 UK workers by a total of £1.44m and had levied fines of almost £2 million.

In February, opposition parties accused the government of letting down low-paid workers and suggested naming and shaming had “fallen off the government’s to-do list”.  

This week, according to newspaper reports, Business Minister Kelly Tolhurst said that the government was continuing to review the practice and that lists won't be published until that process is complete. There is no set completion date for the review which started six months ago. 

However, she denied that the government had decided to shelve the naming and shaming scheme. 

Many businesses have complained about being including in the lists where they have made genuine mistakes and have not deliberately underpaid staff. It is possible therefore, that the government will elect to only name those who deliberately underpay staff. The Minister was keen to emphasis that "not all employers are wilfully paying under the national minimum wage, and we have a duty to educate businesses so that they are easily able to comply with the law." That suggests that the government may adopt an enforcement approach that is more carrot than stick going forward.

We'll keep you posted.