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Last Updated: Tuesday, 22 August 2006, 07:05 GMT 08:05 UK
Firms 'still underpaying staff'
Wage packet and cash
Enforcement teams are checking wage settlements across the UK
Dubbing an employee a "waste of space" is among the worst excuses given for not paying the minimum wage, according to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

The findings come as HMRC said it had identified more than 3.3m in underpaid wages across the UK in the past year.

Other excuses included that the worker was over 65 years of age or disabled.

Paymaster General Dawn Primarolo said the list aimed to remind employers and staff of their rights relating to the minimum wage of 5.05 an hour.

She added that while many firms were honest some continued to flout the law.

He's a waste of space
She only wanted 3 an hour
I didn't think the worker was worth it
I didn't think it applied to small firms
He's disabled
They can't cope on their own and it's more than they'd get in their home country
She's on benefits - those and her pay add up to minimum wage
They're over 65
They can't speak English
I only took him on as a favour
Source: HMRC report

"By far the majority of employers are honest and scrupulous, so instances of non-payment are very much in the minority," she said.


However, Ms Primarolo added that HMRC enforcement teams were "hard at work across the UK" to make sure that companies were paying staff at least the minimum wage.

TUC secretary general Brendan Barber welcomed the news that the government was starting to prosecute unscrupulous employers.

"I think naming and shaming employers in that way is going to send an important signal," he told BBC News.

The HMRC study comes just over a month ahead of an increase in the national minimum wage.

On 1 October, the hourly rate for over-22s will rise to 5.35. Pay for 18 to 21 year olds will increase to 4.45 from 4.25 while 16 to 17-year-olds will get a 30p increase to 3.30 an hour.

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