Liberal Democrat Councillor Lynne Thompson is urging Oldham workers who believe that they are being cheated of their entitlement to the National Minimum Wage (NMW) to report their cases for investigation.
She also takes Michael Meacher to task for politicking with the information rather than using it to get workers to seek help.
Cllr Thompson says, “From now on, the government will name and shame wage cheats regularly. That will serve as a punishment and as a deterrent to those who may be tempted to follow suit.
“I hope that reporting cases will also make more workers aware of their rights and how to secure them. HMRC, the department responsible, is successful in securing back pay for workers and fining offending employers, but needs workers to report offenders for investigation.”
Liberal Democrat Employment Relations Minister Jo Swinson has taken a lead on this, introducing new rules from October 1st allowing more frequent public ‘naming and shaming’ of employers who fail to pay the National Minimum Wage.
It is now much simpler for Government to ‘name and shame’ non-compliant employers. Previously employers had to meet one of seven criteria and owe their workers an average of £500 and at least £2000 in total before they could be named. The revised scheme will remove these restrictions so that any employer who breaks minimum wage law can be named.
The new rules are part of government efforts to toughen up enforcement of the NMW and increase compliance. Naming employers creates bad publicity for their businesses and may deter customers. Employers also face financial penalties, and possible prosecution, if they fail to pay NMW.
In 2012 to 2013 HMRC identified 736 employers who had failed to pay the national minimum wage leading to the recovery of £3.9 million in unpaid wages for over 26,500 workers.
Jo Swinson said: “Paying less than the minimum wage is illegal. If employers break this law they need to know that we will take tough action.
“This is why I’m making changes so it is easier to name and shame employers who break the law. This gives a clear warning to rogue employers who ignore the rules, that they will face reputational consequences as well as a fine if they don’t pay the minimum wage.
“If workers feel they aren’t getting the minimum wage that they are legally entitled to then they should contact the free and confidential Pay and Work Rights Helpline on 0800 917 2368. Calls will be referred to HMRC to actively investigate any suspected non-payment of national minimum wage.”
Councillor Lynne Thompson adds, “Michael Meacher’s intervention in this debate – in the local press this week – would be laughable if it were not so counter-productive for those he purports to help.
“He called for costly prosecutions. By his own admission, HMRC routinely collects a 50% fine as well as the back pay (to pass to the victims), and will now name and shame as a deterrent – a constructive, quick and economical solution.
“At least he’s woken up. The new naming and shaming rules went live over two months ago. The original ‘name and shame’ rules in 2010 weren’t sharp enough, but were better than no provision under Labour.
“His solution is the living wage. Liberal Democrats wholeheartedly back that too, but do not live in the cloud-cuckoo-land where employers who cheat on the minimum wage will reform by magic.
“Mr Meacher paints the emotive picture of the man having to ‘beg on the streets’ but only offers him ‘his day in court’. Jo Swinson and I offer him a helpline number to do something about it and a prospect of his back pay.
“I know which I’d find more useful”, Lynne concludes.