Act now if you think you’ve been underpaid

Following revelations that 155,000 people were underpaid in the 2020-21 tax year because they weren’t being paid the minimum amount required by law, HMRC has urged workers to check their payslips to make sure they’re not being underpaid.

Unsurprisingly, the tax body, which helped Brits get back more than £16 million in underpaid wages in the last tax year, received some bizarre excuses from employers who were keen to dodge their legal duty. These include: 

  • “It is part of UK culture not to pay young workers for the first three months as they have to prove their ‘worth’ first.”
  • “The employee was not a good worker, so I did not think they deserved to be paid the National Minimum Wage.”
  • “My accountant and I speak a different language – he does not understand me, and that is why he does not pay my workers the correct wages.”

The national minimum wage starts from £4.30 per hour for apprentices. If you’re under 18, the minimum amount you can be paid is £4.62 per hour, rising to £6.56 for those aged 18 to 20, and £8.36 for people aged 21 to 22. Those aged 23 and above get paid the national living wage and are entitled to a minimum of £8.91 per hour.

If you’re unsure, the current hourly rates are:

  • £8.91 – Age 23 or over (National Living Wage)
  • £8.36 – Age 21 to 22
  • £6.56 – Age 18 to 20
  • £4.62 – Age under 18
  • £4.30 – Apprentice

Workers are entitled to the correct pay even if they are still within their training period, are on a temporary contract or are working part-time.

If you think you’ve been underpaid, dig out your payslips and check them against the rates listed. If you think you haven’t been paid enough, you should talk to your employer in the first instance to give them the chance to put the situation right. 

If this approach doesn’t succeed, contact HMRC who will investigate your complaint. If you have been underpaid, the money that you’re due will be paid to you.