Conrad Landin writes:
The number of people paid less than the minimum wage has doubled in the space of just a year and penny-pinching bosses owe British workers a total of £68 million.
In a report published yesterday the National Audit Office (NAO) estimated that 209,000 workers are paid less than the minimum wage.
And 58,000 were identified as being owed arrears in the 2015-16 financial year, up from 26,000 in 2014-15.
Shadow chancellor John McDonnell said the news “should bring shame to George Osborne and this Tory government who pretend to be on the side of working people.”
Investigators found cause for particular concern about the social care sector, where private outsourcing and bit payments for workers mean many do not receive the minimum wage.
The NAO had previously estimated that 10.6 per cent of care workers may be paid less.
Labour MP Angela Rayner, who was a care worker and union rep before entering Parliament said she knew “all too well” the effect of bosses failing to cough up arrears.
“In social care the impact isn’t just on the workers but the people we look after as well,” she told the Star.
“Frankly it’s bad enough that we only pay the minimum wage to the people who care for the elderly and vulnerable, let alone employers don’t even pay that.
“This is why we need not just strong action from the government, but strong trade unions as well.”
The report also highlights a dramatic drop in the number of cases referred to government inspectors by a minimum wage enforcement helpline since the Tory government changed the line’s operator last year.
Just 1,340 cases were passed on in 2015, compared with 2,327 the previous year. Mr McDonnell said this development should sound “alarm bells” at the Treasury.
“We need Treasury ministers to urgently look into why this large drop-off has happened,” he said.
“The problem is that it’s hard to truly believe that we have a Chancellor who really takes such matters seriously when he has spent his time in government cutting the staffing numbers at HM Revenue and Customs, attacking trade union rights and cutting in-work benefits for the low-paid.”
The NAO’s analysis of HMRC’s caseload up to December 2015 shows that 72 per cent of open cases were less than 120 days old, compared to 42 per cent in December 2013.
Nonetheless, National Audit Office chief Amyas Morse said:
“With the implementation of the national living wage [Mr Osborne’s rebranded minimum wage], it is even more important that the government ensures its compliance programme reflects the changing risks within the labour market and maintains its progress in ensuring all employers pay the minimum wage.
“The government also needs to reduce the time it takes to investigate complaints and resolve cases.”