Hackney Mayor asks for more powers to tackle low pay
Jules Pipe, Mayor of Hackney, has called on Business Secretary Vince Cable to give councils more power to deal with rogue bosses who do not pay their staff national minimum wage.
In a letter to the Business Secretary, Mayor Pipe said that councils “are in a far better position than HMRC to both investigate and enforce against cases of non-compliance”.
"If this Government is serious about tackling benefits dependency and making work pay, it is essential that it takes action to ensure that employers are playing their part by paying at least the National Minimum Wage."
Councils already inspect and carry out a range of enforcement action against businesses for offences including breaches of trading standards or licensing law but at present there is no arrangement for sharing this information with HMRC to identify bosses who may flout minimum wage requirements.
While I welcome the recent announcement that HMRC would 'name and shame' employers that underpay their workers, this is only effective if enforcement action is carried out against rogue businesses.
In the past, enforcement work has failed to take advantage of Councils' experience in this area and the intelligence and local knowledge they have at their disposal. I would like to see HMRC take a risk-based approach to tackling unscrupulous employers and either hand over responsibility or work in partnership with local councils.
Hackney Council has recently launched a campaign to raise awareness of the national minimum wage amongst residents who may be exploited by unscrupulous employers and to share good practice between local businesses.
Mayor Pipe has asked HMRC to build on this work and run a pilot scheme in Hackney to find new ways to reach employees who don't speak English or have literacy needs.
Hackney Council is a London Living Wage (LLW) employer and could be the first local authority to become fully LLW compliant next year, when remaining contracts are brought in line with the authority's wage policy.