The government has named and shamed 191 employers who have paid employees less than the minimum wage, including household names such as John Lewis, Pret A Manger and The Body Shop International. The named firms have been fined for owing £2.1m to more than 34,000 workers.

Business Minister Paul Scully has warned that “employers that short-change workers won’t get off lightly”. His statement comes following an investigation by HMRC of breaches that took place between 2011 and 2018. Named employers have since been made to pay back what they owed and been fined an additional £3.2 million. Since 2015, employers have been ordered to repay over £100m to one million workers.

HMRC acknowledges that while not all minimum wage underpayments are intentional, it is the employer’s duty to comply with the law. Most breaches occur when the employer is paid on or near the minimum wage and deductions are taken from their pay to cover uniform or accommodation. The figures reveal that:

  • 47% wrongly deducted pay from workers’ wages, including for uniform and expenses
  • 30% failed to pay workers for all the time they had worked, such as when they worked overtime
  • 19% paid the incorrect apprenticeship rate

Employers who pay less than the minimum wage must pay arrears to the worker at current minimum wage rates. They also face financial penalties payable to the government of up to 200% of the arrears (capped at £20,000 per worker).

Overview of National Minimum Wage and Living Wage

The minimum wage a worker receives depends on their age and if they’re an apprentice.

The National Minimum Wage is the minimum pay per hour almost all workers are entitled to. The National Living Wage is higher than the National Minimum Wage – workers get it if they’re over 23.

Regardless of how small an employer is, they must still pay the correct minimum wage.

  • A worker must be aged 23 or over to receive the National Living Wage. The 23-24 age category for the National Minimum Wage has been abolished following the lowering of the eligibility for the National Living Wage to 23 years old.

Current rates

 23 and over21 to 2218 to 20Under 18Apprentice
April 2021£8.91£8.36£6.56£4.62£4.30

The rates change on 1 April every year.


Apprentices are entitled to the apprentice rate if they’re either:

  • aged under 19
  • aged 19 or over and in the first year of their apprenticeship

Apprentices are entitled to the minimum wage for their age if they are aged 19 or over and have completed the first year of their apprenticeship.

You can find government guidance on calculating the National Minimum Wage and National Living Wage here.

If you have any queries in relation to the National Minimum Wage, please contact us.

Warning: The above is merely general guidance and should not be relied upon as formal advice. The advice we give to each client will depend on their specific circumstances. We suggest you take professional advice before taking any action in relation to the issues discussed above.