Employers who breach national minimum wage rules, gang masters or those who breach employment agency standards are all clearly in the sights of the government’s new  Director of Labour Market Enforcement, Sir David Metcalf.

Whilst there don’t appear to be proposals for new legislation, the recent report strongly suggests that Sir David Metcalf believes that the current penalties available to be imposed on employers found to be in breach of employment standards, are not being applied strictly enough.

Healthcare, catering and agriculture are some of the sectors that are being targeted in a concerted attempt to discover if there are illegal employment practices taking place. It’s obviously right that employers who deliberately flout worker rights should be taken to task, but in some cases the employer has been pulled up on a technicality.

For example, a care provider had asked staff to complete online training after work at home. We know that training is counted as working time, so should be paid. However, this employer was also very generous with paid breaks (including breaks that could not be interrupted) and paid well above the minimum wage for working time. However, because the training was sporadic, in months where lots of training took place, it meant that the average wage did drop slightly below the minimum wage.

It was not the employer’s intent to under pay their staff and as a result they had to restructure their contractual arrangements, ending the paid breaks in order to be able to pay for the training. The staff still receive the same amount of money and nothing else in the business has changed. But the business suffered months of time-consuming and expensive work to provide HMRC with the information they demanded and may face penalties as a result of their non-compliance.

If you’re concerned that your contractual arrangements may be placing your business at risk, please feel free to contact us to discuss your options and arrange for a contract review.

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