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To ask Mr Chancellor of the Exchequer, pursuant to the Answer of 16 October 2014 to Question 209683 to the hon. Member for Stourbridge, what assessment he has made of the factors that resulted in there being no prosecutions for not paying the national minimum wage in each of the last two years.
The Government takes the enforcement of the National Minimum Wage (NMW) very seriously. HMRC review every complaint that is referred to them by the Pay and Work Rights Helpline. In addition, HMRC undertake targeted enforcement on employers across the United Kingdom who are more likely to be not paying NMW.
The Government has increased the financial penalty percentage from 50% to 100% of the unpaid wages owed to workers, and the maximum penalty from £5,000 to £20,000. These new limits are now in force where arrears are identified in pay reference periods on or after 7 March 2014. The Government will also bring in primary legislation as soon as possible so that the maximum £20,000 penalty can apply to each underpaid worker.
The majority of employers identified as paying below the NMW pay arrears on receipt of a formal Notice of Underpayment. Where they do not do so, HMRC pursues recovery through the civil courts. HMRC‘s approach to tackling underpayment of NMW through the civil courts is the best way to ensure that money is paid back to the person underpaid and provides the most effective resolution for tax-payers. Criminal investigations may not result in arrears being paid to workers and are therefore reserved for the most serious cases.