National minimum wage – are you sure your hospitality business is compliant?

National minimum wage – are you sure your hospitality business is compliant?

National Minimum Wage (NMW) enforcement activity by HM Revenue & Customs has reached new levels. During 2018, only offshore tax avoidance enquiries exceeded those into NMW compliance, resulting in many businesses facing lengthy and costly reviews, fines and large repayments to workers.

Often, such employers have inadvertently made ‘technical breaches’ or fallen foul of a changed interpretation of the rules. Nonetheless, more than 600 employers were publicly named and shamed named in 2017/18 for owing millions of pounds to over 200,000 workers.

Leading hospitality businesses such as Wagamama, Marriott and TGI Fridays found themselves at the top of the ‘name and shame’ list, facing adverse publicity and comment. If large organisations with extensive resources can make mistakes, anyone can.

Why is our industry a target for NMW enquiries?

The way in which staff earnings are paid – basic pay which counts towards NMW income, and tronc, tips and gratuities which don’t – makes many businesses in the sector vulnerable to what may seem very minor technical mistakes or misunderstandings.

With NMW the devil is in the detail, as others have found out to their cost. You can easily put yourself at risk if you aim to pay at or above the NMW rates. This is true for staff paid hourly or for those who are salaried whose basic rate is designed to match NMW levels.

Remember, it’s easy for a current or former employee to complain to HMRC – and the onus is on you to disprove their allegation, not the other way around.

Are you at risk?

If your answer is ‘yes’ to any of the following questions, you urgently need to review your processes:

  1. Do you keep time records for hourly staff, but not for salaried staff?
  2. Do you record clocking on and off times, but not break times?
  3. Do your contracts for salaried staff fail to explicitly state the number of basic hours they are expected to work in a year?
  4. Do you pay your salaried staff on a fortnightly or four-weekly basis?
  5. Do you ask staff to supply (or cover the cost of) clothing they wear as part of a dress code (e.g. white shirt, black shoes)?
  6. Does a worker ever take a trial shift that you do not pay them for (eg a failed trial shift)?
  7. Do you charge your live-in staff more than £49 per week for rent and/or bills?
  8. Do your staff pay deposits for uniforms, locker keys, swipe cards and similar items?
  9. Do your staff buy goods and/or services from you that they pay for via the payroll?
  10. Do you have a salary sacrifice scheme in place for workers on NMW?

How we can help

If any of these questions have left you concerned, we can help.

Whether you just have a few loose ends to tie up, need to make some changes to become NMW compliant, or are in the middle of an HMRC investigation, our experienced team will provide the help and support you need.

Contact us on 01727 838255 or at [email protected] to arrange a free initial discussion.