Hospitality employers which do not pay staff the national minimum wage face a £200 fine for each worker affected, under a government crackdown launched today.
Those who fail to pay the statutory rate also risk a criminal prosecution, the Department of Trade and Industry said.
The adult minimum wage increased to £5.35 per hour last October, but last year more than 1,500 employers were exposed for not paying the minimum wage to more than 25,000 workers.
Alistair Darling, trade and industry secretary, hopes the penalty will be seen as an extra incentive to encourage employers to stay within the law.
Susan Anderson, director of HR policy at employers' body the CBI, welcomed the announcement.
"Firms who pay staff less than the minimum wage are not just acting unlawfully, they are undermining the vast majority of law-abiding employers," she said.
"It is therefore right that those firms who have been given ample opportunity to pay their arrears and fail to do so should be penalised, and the CBI fully supports the Government's resolve to issue penalty notices to firms that fail to comply with enforcement notices."
By Daniel Thomas
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