HMRC sinks seafaring employers who fail to pay the National Minimum Wage

The National Minimum Wage (NMW) applies even at sea, the Government has warned, as businesses attempt to sail away from employment legislation.

In a new statement, HM Revenue & Customs has confirmed that seafarers in UK internal waters must be paid at least the minimum wage – currently £7.50 for those over the age of 25.

Recent reports revealed that some ships registered abroad were underpaying their workers in UK waters and undercutting UK crews, according to the tax office.

It says UK Border Force patrols will be handing out information to seafarers and employers in more than 50 languages promoting minimum wage law.

Last year, the Government “named and shamed” more than 260 businesses who failed to pay the NMW. Sports Direct and Primark were among the firms fined a total of £1.3 million by the tax authority.

The NMW will increase again this April to £7.83. Firms who fail to keep up with their salary obligations face fines of up to 200 per cent of underpayment, public scrutiny, and even criminal prosecution.

Business Minister Andrew Griffiths said: “Seafarers’ work is vital to key UK industries such as fishing, oil and gas. We are determined to ensure they are paid fairly for the work they do, often in challenging conditions.

“Today we are making it crystal clear that if you work in UK waters you are entitled to at least the minimum wage and all employers – no matter where they’re from – must pay it.”

Where and when the NMW applies to seafarers (

  • when they are working on ships within UK waters and ports regardless of where the ship is registered, or where the worker ordinarily works or lives
  • on a foreign ship for work performed outside the UK if they ordinarily work in the UK
  • on UK registered ships if some of their work is in the UK and they live in the UK