The Government has admitted that its vow to inspect 500 hotel businesses for violations of national minimum wage (NMW) legislation by July will not be met.
Its failure to meet its own targets for NMW enforcement comes after Caterer revealed that the nationwide crackdown had begun with a whimper](http://www.caterersearch.com/Articles/2008/01/24/318445/anger-over-wage-probes-slow-start.html) with just 27 employers inspected since the scheme started in July 2007 (Caterer, 24 January, page 7).
According to details obtained through a Freedom of Information request, HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) is now so far behind that it is simply aiming to have the required information on the remaining cases with inspection teams by the end of June this year to "enable them to commence their visiting programme".
HMRC added that the duration of the enforcement activity would be determined by the complexity of each case and said there was "no predetermined date for these to be completed by".
Officials stressed that disclosing further information about the inspections would prejudice their ability to carry out enforcement under the legislation. "Providing information on how we select and prioritise our work would provide an insight into the likelihood of being selected for a review. This could encourage unscrupulous employers not to comply with their obligations under NMW, which would be unfair both to workers and to compliant employers."
Professor Chris Warhurst, director of the Scottish centre for employment research at Strathclyde University, said the Government risked losing the lead in the NMW debate.
"We're finding that the bigger hotel employers are saying they want NMW enforcement. The debate has moved on from getting employers to accept the NMW - they're now saying give us a date to enforce it by."
Bob Cotton, chairman of the British Hospitality Association, said there had been very few problems with inspections. "We have a lot of members now whose policy is to pay above national minimum wage as they feel it is a good recruitment tool for staff," he said.
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By Christopher Walton
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