Are you underpaid? New Government campaign aims to raise lowest paid workers’ knowledge of their rights

Are tips counted as part of your pay? You could be underpaid. Don’t get paid for work travel? You could be underpaid.

These are some of the messages from the new nationwide Government campaign, which launches today. It’s aimed at increasing low paid workers’ understanding of their rights around pay.

The advertising on public transport, in shopping centres and other public places is being rolled out ahead of the Government’s National Minimum and National Living Wage rates rising on 1 April.

“We are determined to make sure everybody in work receives a fair wage,” says business minister Margot James. “While most employers get it right, there are still a small number who fail to play by the rules. This campaign will raise awareness among the lowest paid people in society about what they must legally receive.”

The campaign follows a new poll for the Government, which claims that many people in low paid work are confused about when they should be paid and what deductions from their pay packets can legally be made.

The poll of more than 1,400 workers earning less than £15,000 found that over two thirds didn’t know they should be paid for travel time between appointments; 57% didn’t know having money deducted from their wages to cover the costs of their uniform is unlawful (if it takes their earnings under the National Minimum or National Living Wage). And nearly half 48% didn’t know that tips can’t be used to top up pay to the legal minimum.

Some of the most common excuses given to HMRC by employers for underpaying workers, include using tips to top up pay to the minimum wage, making staff pay for their uniforms out of their salary, not paying for time waiting for security checks, or the time spent travelling from one appointment to another.

The Government says it is responding to these in its new campaign, as it highlights some of the most common examples when a worker may be underpaid the legal minimum in a bid to encourage workers to check their pay.

“Paying the National Minimum Wage is the law – it’s not a choice,” says Jennie Granger, director general for customer compliance at HMRC. “Employers must pay their workers what they’re entitled to and follow the rules. We will act to ensure ripped-off workers receive their proper pay and hardworking businesses are not losing out to dodgy dealers who cheat their staff.”

Ahead of 1 April, when the national minimum and living wage rates go up, workers are encouraged to check their pay, speak to their boss about the rate rise and report underpayment to Acas, the independent workplace advisory service.

The Government’s National Living Wage rate for those aged 25 and over will increase by 30p to £7.50 per hour. For the Government’s National Minimum Wage: the rate for 21 to 24 year olds will increase by 10p to £7.05 per hour; the rate for 18 to 20 year olds will increase by 5 to £5.60 per hour; the rate for 16 to 17 year old will increase by 5p to £4.05 per hour and the apprentice rate will increase by 10p to £3.50 per hour.

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