One of the key pieces of advice any lean startup coach will tell you is that running lean is not an excuse to cut back on costs relevant to creating your minimum viable product, in the same way a streamlined jet plane cannot cut back on the engine.

In this analogy, your small, but dedicated team of staff are critical and should be paid accordingly. At the very least, they should be paid the minimum wage, whether that is the National Minimum Wage for those under the age of 23 and the National Living Wage for everyone else.

For most startups, this is not an issue, as they pay at the very least the Living Wage and often considerably more for high-level skills.

However, there are some truly ridiculous reasons why business owners believe they can flout the law and underpay staff, and HMRC published some of the most ridiculous examples.

Here are some of the categories that these excuses fit into.


“I Didn’t Know I Couldn’t Do That”

Some of the most egregious reasons for not paying or underpaying staff are based on ignorance, either willful or accidental.

However, this is no excuse, so whether you believe the minimum wage does not apply to your business (it does) or you claim that your employees are self-employed when they do not fit the criteria, ignorance is no excuse.


“They Don’t Deserve It”

A common issue with younger workers in particular, there is a belief amongst some bosses that employees that are not good, do menial jobs or lack tenure do not deserve to be paid.

One particularly egregious example claimed that employees need to “prove their worth” by working for free before they can be paid, and another made his employees sign a contract waiving their right to be paid.

If you work for a business you have the right to be paid for it, regardless of the contract you sign, whether it is part of a nonexistent culture or how much you value their work. Pay your staff, because it is the law.


“When They’re Not Actively Working I Don’t Pay Them”

The last example, but no less absurd, is certain bosses believing that when employees are not working but are still undertaking tasks for a business, they should not be paid.

This includes one boss not paying an employee for any time they spend learning the trade, and another who only pays staff when a customer is in the store.

Both of these are ludicrously illegal; staff on standby are working, as are staff who are undertaking a course to further their skills in the business.