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Farmers urged to make sure they are paying minimum wage with compliance checks underway

Farm businesses need to be prepared if faced with a compliance check


Alex   Black

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Alex   Black
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Farmers urged to make sure they are paying minimum wage with compliance checks underway

Farmers have been warned to make sure they have complied with minimum wage law, as HMRC has started compliance checks in the rural sector.

 

Both National Minimum Wage and National Living Wage will increase on April 1.

 

Chartered accountants Saffrey Champness warned a series of compliance checks appeared to be underway to ensure businesses were paying their staff at least the minimum wage they were entitled to.

 

Be aware

 

The National Living Wage, which applies to all workers over the age of 25, will rise by 30p/hour to £7.50/hour, but farmers need to be aware of different rules for age groups, job grades and where the Agricultural Minimum Wage applied.

 

Liz Brierley, partner and head of the landed estates and rural business group at Saffrey Champness, said: “We would urge all employers in the rural sector to be aware of correct minimum wage levels and ensure records are correct and up-to-date.

 

“There can be issues with beaters, casual workers, housekeepers and temporary staff. Where there is any doubt, professional advice should be sought.”


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What to do if faced with a wages compliance check or investigation from HMRC

Do not panic

  • Seek proper advice before HMRC arrives for an agreed appointment
  • HMRC will usually be happy to defer the initial visit if you need to get your paperwork in order

Make the correct first response

  • Your initial response is crucial. It could stop an enquiry in its tracks or escalate it towards a full-blown investigation
  • Respond comprehensively and advise what evidence you can provide to show the enquiry is unfounded or can be easily resolved

Keep tidy records

  • These will be essential during a wages compliance check or tax investigation
  • Maintain books and records particularly if cash is involved with all payments and transactions properly logged and recorded

Co-operate

  • HMRC has the right to request information from the business or a third party (eg bank manager, solicitor, accountant, customers)
  • Respond in a timely manner and provide all the information requested
  • HMRC can request to be sent copies of records or can take away copies of records from your premises
  • Penalties imposed can vary significantly depending on the extent to which cooperation is demonstrated

HMRC has the power to instigate criminal prosecutions or fine employers who were suspected of refusing or wilfully neglecting to pay their staff at least minimum wage, where proper records were not kept or where false entries had been made to records.

 

The Government launched a £1.7 million campaign to make workers aware of what they were legally entitled to be paid in January.

 

In April 2016, HMRC’s enforcement budget was increased to £20m, which made more officers available to investigate minimum wage complaints.

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