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[16 MAR 99] THE CHAMBER PRESS RELEASE
Row Over Minimum Wage 'Gobbledegook'

A new row has broken out over implementing the new Minimum Wage legislation, due to come in on 1 April.

Bosses in Coventry and Warwickshire are protesting that they have only three weeks to get to grips with 112 pages of 'guidance' from the government - and that much of it is gobbledegook.

"Although the Act received the Royal Assent at the end of July, the guidance was only issued last Thursday," said a spokesman for the Chamber of Commerce, Training and Enterprise.

"Apart from the length of the rules, much of it is, frankly, gobbledegook."

The Chamber is not calling for the minimum wage of 3.60 to be delayed.

In fact president Peter Howden is known to consider that anyone paying less is guilty of "outrageous exploitation".

He is also concerned that business should not be seen to be prevaricating to put off the start date-and the vast majority of Chamber members say they are already paying more than the new minimum.

"However we are calling for three months grace to get to grips with these complex rules," the Chamber spokesman added.

"Indeed we want to see the principle of four months being allowed between a regulation which affects business gaining approval and coming into force."

As it stands, any business failing to keep proper records could be heavily fined.

The Chamber concedes that the government has dropped a demand for full details of employees' new entitlements to be in every pay packet issued. Employers said this would create a mountain of 2,300 tons of paper a year.

But they still have to keep sufficient records to prove that the right rate is being paid.

Because this is also affected by the number of hours worked, many employers face having to keeping records of the hours worked for the first time. And the records have to be kept for three years.

They also have to decide whether a travelling salesman staying in a hotel is deemed to be working for 24 hours a day, or not.

The DTI has replied that it could not issue the guidelines until the Act received full parliamentary approval last Thursday and that "the main elements of the measures have been well publicised".

"That is pushing the problems of parliamentary time-partly caused by the welter of new legislation-on to business," The Chamber spokesman said.

"In addition the DTI guidelines stress that they are issued for 'general guidance' only, and should not be relied upon as a complete and authoritative statement of law.

"Add to that the gobbledegook and employers are throwing up their hands in horror at the thought of getting it all right in less than three weeks."

NOTES

Three examples of gobbledegook from the regulations

Your instant guide to gobbledegook from the guidelines:

  • A worker might be paid at a higher premium rate for working at a particular time or for particular duties: for example for working overtime, or shifts or on Bank Holidays. If so, the premium element of the payment does not count toward national minimum wage pay.
  • To calculate the premium element, the employer must subtract the lowest basic rate that is paid to the worker from the worker's actual rate of pay. The remaining premium does not count towards national minimum wage pay.
  • Sometimes a worker is employed by another worker, for example a supervisor engaged to work for a contractor. If the work is done on the contractor's premises, then both the supervisor and the contractor count as the worker's employer.

MORE INFORMATION:  Barry Lloyd-Jones   01203 654260
   

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CWN / Business / The Chamber / 16 Mar 1999

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