More than 423,000 workers were paid less than the National Minimum Wage (NMW) in 2019, according to a recent study.
The research, published by the Low Pay Commission (LPC), is the third annual investigation of non-compliance with legal minimum wage rules.
According to the paper – which comes after the NMW was increased for all age groups in April – non-compliance is widespread across all groups of low-paid workers, but particularly rife among apprenticeships.
The LPC estimates that around one in five apprentices earn less than their legal entitlement, resulting from “confusion” around the requirement to pay apprentices for their training hours.
The report also highlights the problems workers face in accessing payslips and being able to identify underpayment. Despite regulations recently coming into force requiring all workers to have access to a payslip, the LPC says these rules need to be further publicised and enforced.
The LPC has set out a full list of recommendations, found here.
Commenting on the figures, Bryan Sanderson, Chair of the LPC, said: “The current situation has brought to the attention of all of us the importance of low-paid workers to many of our vital services, including health and social care and the production and distribution of food. The priority is clearly to try to secure the survival of businesses and jobs which are very much at risk.
“Ultimately, an effective enforcement regime is an essential contributor to the objectives of protecting workers and ensuring a level playing field for businesses too.”
Earlier this year, a separate study published by HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) identified some £24.4 million in NMW arrears, attracting record penalties of over £17 million for non-compliance.