HMRC is spearheading a government campaign to crack down on companies who offer unpaid work to young people by raising awareness of the requirements to pay the national minimum wage (NMW), reports Harris & Co accountants in Northampton.
The department is to send letters to 200 employers who have recently advertised intern opportunities and unpaid work warning them it will shortly be carrying out a series of targeted checks to make sure they are paying all their workers the correct NMW rate.
HMRC’s assistant director of NMW Michelle Wyer said: ‘Any employer not playing by the NMW rules needs to put things right now. Those that don’t can expect a visit from HMRC – which could result in a penalty, payment of arrears, being publicly named and shamed by BIS or a prosecution.’
As part of a national campaign to educate young people about their rights in relation to being paid the NMW, the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) has produced new guidance which will be made available via video, posters and social media.
Employment relations minister Jo Swinson said: ‘Anyone considered a worker under the law should be paid at least the minimum wage, whether they are an intern, or someone on work experience. Anyone who feels they are being exploited should contact the Pay and Work Rights Helpline on 0800 917 2368. Any intern calling that number will prioritised by HMRC.’
HMRC said a previous campaign which targeted London Fashion Week last year has resulted in a ‘significant change in behaviour’ with nearly 80% of businesses in the sector now involved with the campaign to pay interns fairly. Enforcement checks at the time identified two employers not complying with NMW law and unpaid wages being repaid to two workers involved.