The Government's crackdown on rogue hotel operators that fail to pay staff minimum wage has been labelled as "terribly ineffective".
The criticism followed a TUC report, released last week, that revealed that 1.5 million UK workers were being paid less than the national minimum wage (NMW), with employees in the hospitality sector most likely to be affected. The figures come despite a crackdown on hotel employers that was launched in July 2007 by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).
Neil Jameson, lead organiser at campaign group London Citizens, said the initiative had been "terribly ineffective" owing to a lack of staff and commitment. Last year, Caterer revealed that fewer than 30 employers - from a target of 500 - had been visited in the first six months of the year-long campaign. "They have a handful of inspectors for the whole country and it takes three to four months to get a visit," Jameson told Caterer.
"Then when inspectors call the hotels to check, they are obliged to reveal the name of the employee who contacted them, so that that person very often subsequently loses their job. Government monitoring is minimal because they don't have the staff or the commitment to enforce what they should be enforcing."
Although £3.9m was recovered from law-breaking bosses last year, the TUC estimates that hundreds of thousands of workers are still taking less money home than the law says they should be.
But HMRC defended its position, claiming its crackdown was "not solely about enforcement" but also education.
A spokeswoman said: "In partnership with the Department for Business, we addressed recommendations made by the Low Pay Commission on enforcement. Officials worked with stakeholders to identify NMW issues for the hotel sector, and tailored information leaflets were distributed to hotel employers and workers."
The NMW is currently £5.73 for workers aged 22 and over £4.77 for workers aged 18 and £3.53 for workers under 18.
By Gemma Sharkey
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