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She only made the tea....
12 Jan 2017

Being a shop assistant can mean hours on your feet. Sometimes you're even rushed off them. And other times, well, it's just a quiet day.

One employer decided to address this fluctuating pattern by only paying his staff when they were actually serving a customer!

The above is just one of a myriad of excuses revealed today from employers who are failing to pay staff the minimum wage.

Another employers said that he didn't pay one worker the wage she was legally entitled to because "she only made the tea and sweeps the floors."

Employment Law expert and Partner with FBC Manby Bowdler Julia Fitzsimmons said: "Some of these excuses by employers are simply beyond belief. Saying that a shop assistant is 'on standby' when they work in a shop and only paying them when actually serving is breaking the law if the hourly wage is under the minimum which must be complied with by law.

"If employers are unaware of their responsibilities with regards to paying their staff, especially with a change in the national minimum wage for over-24s to £7.50 an hour coming in on April 1, now is the time to get some advice.

Underpaying bosses also told HMRC officials that they thought the minimum wage didn’t apply to foreign workers or to youngsters who needed to "prove their worth" before being paid appropriately.

Since February 2013, the government has fined nearly 700 firms a total of £1.3m for underpayment and forced them to pay back £3.5m in missing wages. But MPs have claimed the system is not tough enough and workers have complained that bosses are often given the benefit of the doubt.

Among the excuses heard by HMRC inspectors was a claim “the employee wasn’t a good worker so I didn’t think they deserved to be paid the national minimum wage” and “I thought it was OK to pay foreign workers below the national minimum wage as they aren’t British and therefore don’t have the right to be paid it”.

If you’d like advice on your responsibilities towards staff regarding the minimum wage or any employment-related issue, you can contact Julia on 01952 208420 or email

Meet Julia Fitzsimmons