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Care sector targeted over the National Minimum Wage
Following the naming and shaming of 70 businesses for not paying the National Minimum Wage (NMW) the Business Minister has made clear her department is “working hard in areas where we know there are particular problems, like the care sector”.
Understanding the detail?
The NMW regulations are complex, and while you may think you are paying over the NMW it could be that you are not. If you have misunderstood the detail, as I suspect many of these businesses have done, it appears you will not be informed - just named and shamed. That may offend natural justice (expected of us as employers) but not, it seems, the Government. Its approach looks distinctly punitive rather than informative. Some businesses have been fighting back. But once named and shamed the reputational damage has been done and there is no real redress.
So are you vulnerable?
What to check:
- Travel time
In general, travel to and from work does not need to be paid, whereas travel between work appointments does and the time counts towards the NMW calculation. If you want to understand the detail, take a look here. https://www.gov.uk/minimum-wage-different-types-work/overview
- Sleep ins
Another complex area. The gov.uk website states that time “at the workplace but not working during a time when workers are allowed to sleep (if you provide a place to sleep)” does not count as working time. But in an Employment Appeal Tribunal case it was ruled that a worker was entitled to be paid the NMW because “she could not slip out for a late night movie or for fish and chips”. I am tempted to wonder whether by providing a blu-ray player and the telephone number of the local takeaway the home could have escaped the NMW for those hours!
Training or travelling to training during normal working hours counts towards time that should be paid for. However, it might not apply if your employees are partaking in a Government employment programme.
- Salary sacrifice
This is where you provide a benefit in return for a reduction in salary, but it cannot allow earnings to drop below the NMW.
- Other benefits
Meals, deductions for uniforms, accommodation, childcare, etc. are all subject to detail and need to be checked.
It is not enough to be a good employer; you need to take care to be absolutely correct legally.
Malcolm Martin of Employer Solutions – QCS HR Expert contributor.