National Minimum Wage – who pays to look the same?

I might be one of the few people who would think that being asked to come to work in black jeans or a black skirt would be ok as the chances are I have those items in my wardrobe.  But in fact, it is not ok – or at least if you are on the National Minimum Wage.
HMRC recently named and shamed some well known companies for breaching the NMW because they told their staff what to wear to work.
The question of payment for uniform is not a new one.  Last year, other retailers, notably Monsoon, were on the receiving end of a big penalty because they said that staff had to wear their products to work, but gave them a discount.  That was still not enough though – Monsoon should have allowed for the buying of the clothes before paying the NMW.
However, the latest round of naming and shaming though is slightly different for some of the companies.  This is not about the employers forcing the employees’ to buy their products to wear to work (in Wagamama’s case, I guess a noodle skirt is not likely to be that practical), but the fact that they dictate at all what they should wear has caused the issue. Wagamama’s held their hands up and said “we got it wrong” and it’s perhaps not surprising that they did.
The simple message seems to be: if you tell an employee what they have to wear, then you must allow for the cost of the outfit before you pay the NMW.  The employee must receive the NMW in their hand after forking out for the appropriate skinny jeans.
This does however raise a number of queries in our view.  When is an employer “dictating” what their staff should wear?  Is it in a dress code policy, in which case is that not guidance only? Are employees disciplined if they turn up to work wearing the wrong thing? Do you allow for the price of Armani or Primark?  From our reading of reports, it would seem that allowing for £25 for a pair of jeans would be sufficient.
Are you ready for an audit on NMW? Here are some points to consider:

  • Look at your uniform/work clothes requirements
  • Do you deduct the cost of late night taxis home after work?
  • Do you deduct the cost of discounted products from wages?

Finally, the rates go up with effect from 1 April:

25 and over 21 to 24 18 to 20 Under 18 Apprentice
£7.83 £7.38 £5.90 £4.20 £3.70