By Adam Bienkov
More employers will be named and shamed if they fail to pay the minimum wage, the government insisted today.
The powers to name and shame employers were first introduced in 2011, but tough restrictions meant just one employer has so far been named.
Employment relations minister Jo Swinson said the government would change the rules to make it easier to name rogue employers.
"Paying less than the minimum wage is illegal. If employers break this law they need to know that we will take tough action," Swinson said.
"This is why I'm making changes so it is easier to name and shame employers who break the law. This gives a clear warning to rogue employers who ignore the rules, that they will face reputational consequences as well as a fine if they don't pay the minimum wage."
Under the previous scheme, employers could only be named if they owed their workers at least £2,000 in unpaid wages with an average of at least £500 per worker.
This requirement will be removed from October.
Labour said the government's pledge was "worthless" when so few employers had actually been prosecuted for failing to pay the minimum wage.
"The 'naming and shaming' of unscrupulous businesses which flout the national minimum wage will be worthless unless ministers commit to properly enforcing the minimum wage, which they have so far failed to do."
Trade unions today welcomed the government's pledge but also called for more prosecutions of those who flout the law.
"Employers need to know that there will be no hiding place if they break the law. The government must put more money into enforcement so that there are fewer places for even the most determined minimum wage cheats to hide," TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said today.
There was just one prosecution for failing to pay the minimum wage in the first nine years of its operation and none at all in 2011 or 2012, according to government figures.
However, a spokesperson for the Department for Business insisted that almost £4 million in unpaid wages were recovered by HMRC in the past year, without any need for prosecution.
The only employer to so far be named and shamed for failing to pay the minimum wage was Rita Patel, the owner of a hair and beauty salon in Leicester.
Patel had paid a member of staff just £342 for four and a half months' work.