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GOVERNMENT TOUGHENS UP MINIMUM WAGE LAW

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Workers again able to claim arrears for past as well as present jobs ...
Workers again able to claim arrears for past as well as present jobs

A new law to toughen up the enforcement of the national minimum wage

comes into force today, ensuring workers can claim arrears for past

as well as current employment.

Employment relations minister Gerry Sutcliffe welcomed the new law,

which will give minimum wage enforcement officers the power to ensure

minimum wage arrears are paid after workers are no longer working for

the employer in question.

Gerry Sutcliffe said:

'The government is determined to make sure that all workers,

including those who have left for new jobs, are paid what they are

owed.

'This new legislation restores the position following an adverse

tribunal ruling last year, and will ensure that the Inland Revenue

can again take enforcement action in all complaint cases for former

workers.

'The national minimum wage is one of the government's finest

achievements, but we are not complacent when it comes to enforcing

the rules and, where necessary, we will tighten them up.

'Anyone who thinks they are not being paid the minimum wage should

call the minimum wage helpline on 0845 6000 678.'

The government has also laid regulations before Parliament to

introduce substantial increases in the minimum wage rates. The adult

rate of the minimum wage will be increased from £4.20 to £4.50 and

the development rate will be increased from £3.60 to £3.80. Between

1.3 and 1.6 million low- paid workers will stand to benefit from

these increases.

Notes

1. The National Minimum Wage (Enforcement Notices) Act amends the

parent legislation (the National Minimum Wage Act 1998) to ensure

that officers can once again issue enforcement notices to require the

payment of the minimum wage arrears on behalf of former as well as

current workers.

2. The legislation was deemed necessary following an Employment

Appeals Tribunal decision in August 2002 (in the case of Bebb Travel

v Inland Revenue) which ruled that the National Minimum Wage Act 1998

meant that minimum wage enforcement officers were not entitled to

issue enforcement notices claiming minimum wage arrears on behalf of

former workers. In order to restore the situation the Government

brought forward the National Minimum Wage (Enforcement Notices) Bill

2003 as a priority. This Bill restores the right of enforcement

officers to issue notices on behalf of former workers; it gained

Royal Assent on 8 May and came into effect on 8 July 2003. The Bill

will also allow the Revenue to take action in respect of cases

involving former workers that have arisen in the past. The Revenue is

therefore presently reviewing all of these cases that have arisen

since last August.

3. The Inland Revenue is responsible for enforcing compliance with

the national minimum wage legislation. Its compliance officers

respond to all complaints about underpayment and take action to

ensure that the appropriate minimum rate and any arrears of wages due

are paid to the worker.

4. Anyone who thinks they are not being paid the minimum wage should

call the helpline on 0845 6000 678 or use the interactive website -

www.tiger.gov.uk - which provides guidance for both employees and

employers.

5. The current main (adult) national minimum wage rate is £4.20 per

hour for workers aged 22 or over. The development rate is £3.60 per

hour and applies to workers aged 18-21 inclusive. Workers under the

age of 18 do not qualify for the national minimum wage.

6. The government has also accepted the recommendations in the Low

Pay Commission's fourth report that new minimum wage rates should

apply from 1 October 2003. These are £4.50 per hour for workers aged

22 or over and £3.80 per hour for those aged 18-21. The government

recently laid regulations to introduce these increases and these will

be debated in Parliamen t later this month.

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