If you work long hours but you’re not paid hourly, it’s easy to just do the work without noticing that your hourly pay has fallen below the minimum hourly wage.
In fact, some dodgy businesses rely on that.
When everyone puts in extra hours, everybody ends up feeling like it’s normal, so nobody says anything about it. But that means you can miss out on getting all the money you’ve earned.
That is not okay.
But there are things you can do. This article explains:
- That you have the right to be paid the minimum wage for every hour you work
- How to work out if you’re being paid the minimum wage if you work long hours
- Other rights you have
- How to talk to management about money
- If they refuse to pay the minimum wage, how to report them to HMRC
- How to launch a grievance
- How to set up a petition
- How to put yourself in a stronger position by joining a union.
Of course, as with everything on this site, this isn’t legal advice, it’s a guide.
Here’s what you need to know.
1) How to work out if you have the right to be paid minimum wage
If you are on a contract with no end date, you’re probably an employee in law; you’re entitled to the minimum wage.
If you’re on a contract such as a zero-hours contract and you don’t do work for lots of different clients at the same time, you’re probably a ’worker’ in law; you’re also entitled to the minimum wage.
You’re not entitled to it if you’re self-employed. If you do work for lots of different clients and you control how you work and when you work, you’re probably self-employed.
But if there’s one thing I wish everyone knew, it’s this:
The organisation you work for doesn’t get to decide which category you fall into
Of course, the organisation where you work will decide which category you’re in to begin with, but they don’t get the final say.
They might be wrong about which category you fall into and about the rights you have.
For example, just because you’ve signed a contract saying you’re self-employed does not mean you’re self-employed: how you work in reality is more important than what it says in your contract.
For more on this, start here.
If you’re not sure about whether you’re entitled to the minimum wage or not, ACAS can advise you – it’s what they’re there for. Call their helpline on 0300 123 1100 (open Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm).
2) Keep track of your hours
First up, make sure you keep accurate information about your start and finish times.
If you keep your own records about what time you really start and finish work, you’ll be in a much stronger position if you disagree with your manager about it.
If you work somewhere where you have to sign in at the start and out at the end then your managers have the information about how long you’ve worked. You have the right to that information under the Data Protection Act.
So if you ask your manager for their records of your hours, they have a legal obligation to share it with you.
Asking for the information is formally called ‘making a subject access request.’ You can find out more about how to do it here.
You can be charged £10 for making a copy of the information. They can’t charge you for looking at it though, that is free.
So if the problem has been going on for a long time but you haven’t been keeping records, ask your manager to look at the company’s records so you can use them to do your own calculation about how much money you should have been paid.
When you’re looking at the records of your hours, you also have the right for someone to go with you to look at them.
3) Work out if you’re being paid the minimum wage
Check out what the minimum wage is here.
It changes from time to time and it’s different according to how old you are.
To work out your real hourly wage, divide how much you earned by the number of hours you really worked.
If you’re earning less than the minimum wage per hour, the place where you work is breaking the law. It really is as simple as that.
If you’re working somewhere where this happens to everyone, it can feel like it’s normal and seem more complicated than that, but it’s not. It just means the place where you work is breaking the law for everyone.
4) Talk to your colleagues
If your pay works out to be less than the minimum wage per hour, chances are it’s not just happening to you.
Talk to a coworker about the problem. Together, see if you can talk to more people about it, especially if you’re not confident you’re in the right.
If you want an outside opinion, ACAS can advise (the same number as above), or you can search Acas Helpline Online.
5) Know your rights
Before you do anything else, here are a few rights you should know about.
- Most obviously, you have the right in law to be paid the minimum wage for every hour you work. Some businesses try to make excuses for not paying the minimum wage per hour, but it’s a criminal offence.
- You have the right to ask to be paid the minimum wage without your work making life difficult for you in any way.
- You also have the right to work no more than 48 hours a week, unless you choose to. Unfortunately some places try to get round this. Dave Turnbull has written a few useful answers about this on ‘Ask’ like this one and this one.
6) Talk to your manager about it
The first step is arrange a time to have a conversation with your manager.
It’s a good idea to have that conversation with one or more of your coworkers there at the same time.
Explain that you think there’s been a mistake with your pay because you have not been paid the minimum wage.
Explain your calculations, and that you want to talk about how to solve it.
If they agree, ask them when the money will be paid.
And if they pay you, then – great job!
7) If the manager refuses, discuss it with your coworkers
If the manager still refuses to pay minimum wage for the hours you work, the next step is to sit down with your coworkers together and decide what you want to do.
You have a few options…
8) Option #1: Talk to HMRC
One option is to contact HMRC directly. They enforce the law on the minimum wage.
If you do that, the authorities will investigate.
The advantage of this option is that HMRC has the power to enforce the law. The place where you work could be publicly shamed, fined, and in really bad cases, your employer could even be banned from running a company.
The disadvantage is that it can take a long time.
If you decide to speak to HMRC, you can call ACAS and explain what has happened, on 0300 123 1100 (open Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm).
Or you can report them to HMRC online here.
The Minimum Wage team at HMRC investigate, and if they think you’re owed pay, they can make them pay, fine them, and publicly name them.
In 2017 they found that 16,000 workers doing all kinds of jobs were owed over £1.7 million in unpaid wages. Some employers had to pay fines.
9) Option #2: Start a grievance procedure
Option 2 is to make a formal complaint to your employer, called a ‘grievance’.
If you do this, you have the right to be accompanied by a colleague, family member or Trade Union representative. It’s a good idea to involve a Union. Read section 11 below.
You can find out more about how to do that here.
10) Option #3: If you’re in a strong position, you could set up a petition on Organise
If you’re in a strong position, for example if you work for a big brand that cares about its reputation, or you’re confident that the company can’t afford to lose you, one option is to set up a public petition on the Organise Platform to explain that your company isn’t paying the minimum wage, then spread the word and get as many people as possible to sign it.
If you do this, make sure to use Twitter, Facebook, newspapers, journalists and friends of friends. You might be able to embarrass the management into changing their mind.
11) How to put yourself in a stronger position
You can put yourself in a much stronger position by joining a Union.
They can support you if you have a grievance and help you get together with others doing the same thing to avoid being ripped off on pay, hours, or rights.
Find out which union is right for you here.
Dave Turnbull, Regional Officer with the Caterers & Hotel Workers’ Branch of Unite the union, has written about this on our ‘Ask’ forum. He writes:
“There was a case with Michel Roux, the chef at Le Gavroche in London. He put the chefs on a salary rather than an hourly rate and they ended up working 50-60 hours a week. When we sat down and actually work out what that means, they’d been underpaid the minimum wage.
Michel Roux coughed up very quickly when it was exposed. There have been a few of these cases, including one Australian celebrity chef who’s been caught doing the same thing. He’s had to cough up. So it works.”
But he also writes:
“We don’t recommend anyone puts in a grievance individually.
If you’re going to put in a grievance, we can’t guarantee you how your employers will react. So it’s best to join the union so we can support you, draft the letter with you and so on.
We sit down with you and work out the calculation. Then we talk to others to find more people this has happened to. When you have about five people, we draft a letter and get everyone affected to sign it.
They then submit it to the employer at a meeting.
You’ve got the legal right to have a union representative in attendance at that meeting even if your employer is anti-union or doesn’t recognise the union. They can’t stop you from bringing a union rep.
And if you’ve done the calculation, you can be pretty confident that there isn’t going to be any way out for the employer other than to pay.”
You can read his full answer here.
Has this information helped you? Is there anything wrong with this? Let us know! firstname.lastname@example.org.
Do you work long hours? Do you get the minimum wage? If you don’t, have you spoken to your manager about it? What happened? Do you have advice which might help other people reading this article? Join the discussion in the ‘Ask‘ forum, here.