Being very busy people, you may have missed the fact that on April 1, the National Minimum Wage/Living Wage rates were raised again. For the record, the rates that you should now be paying are:
Age 25 & Over
£8.21/hr 4.9%from £7.83
£7.70/hr 4.3%from £7.38
£6.15/hr 4.2%from £5.90
£4.35/hr 3.6%from £4.20
£3.90/hr 5.4%from £3.70
As we’ve pointed out previously, compliance with National Minimum Wage legislation is not optional. Not only does the employer have to be able to show that they are applying the correct hourly rate on their payslips, but there have been significant legal cases brought against employers in respect of what is or is not deemed to be ’working time’.
There are several long-established practices in the forecourt industry which require employees to perform tasks before and/or after the start and end of their nominal shift hours. Historically these are customer-facing employees who’ve just ended their shift and are expected to stay and reconcile their cash balance and banking against whatever shift sheet or POS record is used on site. Meanwhile, the employee about to start his or her shift is often required to carry out some stock checking: not only to ensure that there are enough packets of cigarettes (etc) on the shelves to see them through the next seven or eight hours, but more importantly to protect themselves from blame in case there’s already any stock missing before they assume responsibility for it on their shift.
For the avoidance of doubt, if an employee is expected to perform these sorts of tasks beyond their nominal working time, the additional time should be recorded as such and paid at the correct rate. If you’re not sure whether your own procedures are compliant, then you could save yourself a lot of potential cost and unwelcome publicity by simply talking to your payroll provider. They might suggest bringing in independent HR specialists for advice, but that’s still a lot less expensive than getting it wrong.
While we’re on the subject of the Living/Minimum Wage, it was interesting that the Chancellor’s Spring Statement referred to a forthcoming ’review’ of the system after 2020.
In some ways it’s rather strange that anyone is still talking about the concept of the UK Minimum Wage regime at all in 2019. The system was introduced in The National Minimum Wage Act 1988, and came into force on April 1, 1999 so it’s now been in operation a full 20 years. If you weren’t in business back then, there were initially only two rates at the time of introduction: £3.60/hr for everyone aged 22 and over, and £3/hr for those aged between 18 and 21. The first increase didn’t come until October 2000, then there were annual increases every October until 2015. We saw one in April 2016 (which introduced the Living Wage) followed by another in October that year, before the current date of April 1 was established from 2017. While the Conservatives initially opposed the introduction of the scheme, by 2010 they were in government, and it was actually a Conservative Chancellor (George Osborne) who rather shocked most observers when he introduced the Living Wage in 2015. In other words, the regime has been in place a long time, under both mainstream political parties. For that reason it would be rash to expect any major changes in the foreseeable future.
There is a natural tendency for employers to look at increases in Minimum Wage rates as just another unwelcome cost. That, of course, is true but it may come as a shock to some that pay rates used to go up pretty regularly before the introduction of the Minimum Wage. There may have been a little more choice about the timing of increases but often as not they were driven by staff voting with their feet for a better offer down the road. In fact, there’s an argument that the Minimum Wage regime levelled the playing field in some respects, in that many employers in the same field choose to operate at those rates and not a penny more, which has had the effect of reducing the loss of staff to local competitors. It’s easy to forget that employees are supposed to be an asset of any well-run business. It’s down to the managers to use them efficiently and maximise their return and to pay them a rate for the job which is both ethically fair and which encourages them to stay.