Official figures have revealed that a record £15.6 million of underpayment to workers has been uncovered in the past year, prompting huge fines against employers.
In total, 200,000 workers missed out on being paid at least the minimum wage rate, the highest number since the statutory rate was introduced in 1999.
HMRC believe that social care, commercial warehousing and the gig economy are the sectors most likely to underpay staff. They have prioritised checking these areas alongside apprentices, migrant workers and employment agencies.
In total, the firms found to have underpaid workers were fined £14 million as well as having to reimburse their staff for money owed.
The government said funding for enforcement was at record levels, rising to £26.3m in 2018/19 from £20m in 2016/17.
Earlier this year, restaurant chains Wagamama and TGI Fridays were fined an undisclosed amount for failing to pay staff the national minimum wage.
The current minimum wage rates per hour are £7.83 for over 25-year-olds, £7.38 for 21-24-year-olds, £5.90 for 18-20-year-olds, 16-17-year-olds is £4.20 and the apprentice rate is £3.70.
Business minister Kelly Tolhurst has urged firms to check that they are getting worker’s pay right.
She said: “We are dedicated to stopping underpayment of the minimum wage. Employers must recognise their responsibilities and pay their workers the money they are entitled to.
“The UK’s lowest-paid workers have had the fastest wage growth in 20 years thanks to the national living wage, and today’s figures serve as a reminder to all employers to check they are getting their workers’ pay right.”
Samantha Randall, a Palmers Solicitor and employment law expert, said: The Government’s actions, mean that employers now have to move quickly to ensure that they are paying employees the correct legal wage, or they will face strict penalties.”