National Minimum Wage

Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 20th November 2018.

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Photo of Stewart McDonald Stewart McDonald Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Defence) 12:00 am, 20th November 2018

What steps he is taking to remind employers of their obligation to pay the national minimum wage.

Photo of Kelly Tolhurst Kelly Tolhurst Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)

We are committed to ensuring all employers pay their workers correctly. As part of our enforcement strategy, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs targets employers with information and advice. In April 2018, we launched a £1.48 million campaign to raise awareness of the national minimum wage rules, particularly in sectors with a high risk of non-compliance. HMRC contacted over 617,000 employers prior to April 2018, reminding them of their responsibilities to pay the higher rate.

Photo of Stewart McDonald Stewart McDonald Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Defence)

The Government are failing thousands of workers who are falling victim to unpaid trial shifts. The law is extremely grey, and despite my efforts to clear it up, the hon. Lady’s Government talked out my Bill. We know that the guidance the Government produce and reminding employers is not enough. As we go into this Christmas period, when this will be another employment epidemic, will she pledge to make this the last Christmas of the unpaid trial shift?

Photo of Kelly Tolhurst Kelly Tolhurst Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)

Short unpaid trials as part of a genuine recruitment process can be legal. However, longer trials with no prospect of employment are illegal. Individuals working on illegal trials are workers and they are entitled to the minimum wage. I can inform the hon. Gentleman that, as per the communication I have had with him in recent months, I have indeed, with my Department, just reviewed and finalised new guidance on unpaid work trials and work experience for interns, which will be published in the next few weeks.

Photo of Stephen Kerr Stephen Kerr Conservative, Stirling

Does the Minister agree with me that the payment of a living wage is actually in the best interests of employers because it encourages engagement, loyalty and productivity?

Photo of Kelly Tolhurst Kelly Tolhurst Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)

I thank my hon. Friend for highlighting that point, and it is absolutely true. This Government are committed to increasing the rate of pay for the lowest-paid workers. I do agree with him that this of course encourages employee loyalty to employers that do so.

Photo of Ruth George Ruth George Labour, High Peak

A constituent of mine who runs a vehicle delivery company came to see me about the dangerously long hours of driving in his industry—often over 16 hours a day—for less than the minimum wage. My constituent and other small companies that care about their staff are desperate to see an end to bogus self-employment in their sectors. When will the Government finally act on the recommendations of the Taylor review and do this?

Photo of Kelly Tolhurst Kelly Tolhurst Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)

Let me be clear: it is illegal not to pay the national minimum wage to workers who are entitled to it. This Government have been very clear. We are looking at and currently reviewing the Taylor review recommendations—we will be implementing the majority of them—and the Government will be responding soon with what we will do.

Photo of Rachel Reeves Rachel Reeves Chair, Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee

Following on from the question from my hon. Friend Ruth George, last week yet another employment tribunal found in favour of workers getting the minimum wage and other workplace rights—in this instance, at Addison Lee—but too many firms continue to label workers as self-employed when they are not. When will the Government finally bring forward this long overdue legislation and—as the Taylor review, the GMB union and the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee have argued—ensure that all workers are paid the minimum wage?

Photo of Kelly Tolhurst Kelly Tolhurst Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)

The hon. Lady will remember that it was this Government that set up the Taylor review. We have been very clear. We are committed to enforcement; we have doubled the enforcement budget for the national minimum wage. In fact, the arrears recovered in the last year totalled £15.6 million, affecting more than 200,000 workers. This Government are committed and we will respond in due course. We are committed to making all workplaces fair for all.

Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner Labour, Bolsover

If the Minister is very keen on the national minimum wage, what is she saying to Mike Ashley, who has 3,000 workers at Shirebrook, most of them on zero-hours contracts? They do not get the national minimum wage. There are only a handful. Is it not time that this Government, instead of talking about the national minimum wage, did something about it?

Photo of Kelly Tolhurst Kelly Tolhurst Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)

I say again: we are committed to enforcing on underpayments of the national minimum wage. We have doubled the enforcement budget. We are delivering for those individuals. And zero-hours contracts do not necessarily mean that there will be a breach of the national minimum wage. We are committed to delivering.