Saying a worker "only makes the tea" and claiming employees "like to think of themselves as being self-employed" are among the excuses given by bosses in Britain for not paying their staff the minimum wage.

Other bosses argued that their employees were not deserving of the minimum wage because they were not British and "therefore don't have the right to be paid it", the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has revealed.

BEIS has published a series of the worst excuses provided by bosses in Britain as part of its campaign to encourage workers to check their pay to make sure they are receiving the statutory minimum wage, at least, ahead of the increase in the national living wage in April.

Also included on the department's list were employers who claimed:

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• An employee did not deserve to be paid the minimum wage because they were not a good enough worker

• Young workers should spend three months proving their worth before they are paid the minimum wage

• A woman did not deserve the minimum wage because "she only makes the teas and sweeps the floors"

• Employees "like to think of themselves as being self-employed", and the national minimum wage does not apply to people who work for themselves

One boss even claimed their accountant was at fault because he speaks a different language, saying "that is why he doesn't pay my workers the correct wages".

And another said their workers were often on standby in a shop, and that he only pays them when they are actually serving customers.

By law, all workers must be paid at least £7.20 (NZ$12.40) per hour if they are aged 25 or older. From April 1, that figure rises to £7.50 (NZ$12.90) and in April 2018 it will rise again. For workers aged 21 to 24 the minimum wage is currently £6.95 (NZ$12), while it drops to £5.55 (NZ$9.60) per hour for workers aged 18 to 20.

Speaking ahead of the launch of the £1.7m (NZ$2.9m) BEIS campaign today, small business minister Margot James said there were "no excuses" for underpaying staff.

Every call is followed up by HMRC and we are determined to make sure everybody in work receives a fair wage.

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"This campaign will raise awareness among the lowest paid in society about what they must legally receive and I would encourage anyone who thinks they may be paid less to contact Acas [the advisory, conciliation and arbitration service] as soon as possible," she said. "Every call is followed up by HMRC and we are determined to make sure everybody in work receives a fair wage."

Former Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne announced in July 2015 that companies will be required to pay a minimum of £9 (NZ$15) an hour to workers aged 25 and over by 2020.

But in August last year, the British Chambers of Commerce urged the Government to abandon its "politically driven" approach, saying in the wake of the vote for Brexit that it could become "unaffordable".

It warned that continuing with plans to hit the £9 (NZ$15.50) target would have the biggest impact on smaller businesses, which account for 99.3pc of all private sector businesses and employ more than 15m people.

UK wage rates

Minimum Wage

Rate:

£6.95 (NZ$12) per hour

Who is covered? People aged 21+

How is it calculated? Recommendations from industry

Is it the law? Yes, since April 1999

National Living Wage
Rate: £7.20 (NZ$12.40)per hour
Who is covered? People aged 25+
How is it calculated? Intended to reach 60 per cent of median UK income by 2020, currently stands at 55 per cent
Is it the law? Yes, since April 2016

Living Wage
Rate: £8.45 (NZ$14.60) per hour (£9.75 per hour in London)
Who is covered? People aged 18+
How is it calculated? Independent think tank The Resolution Foundation calculates the Living Wage, based on cost-of-living expenses for someone working 40 hours per week
Is it the law? No, it's strictly voluntary