Some of the worst reasons why "unscrupulous" bosses have not been paying their staff the national minimum wage have been revealed, including thinking it was OK as their employers were foreign and a shop owner who believed his staff should only be paid when they're actually serving someone.

The government revealed the 10 most bizarre reasons given for bosses underpaying their staff as part of a £1.7m ($2m) campaign for workers to realise what they are entitled to ahead of the national minimum and national living wages rising on 1 April.

The list from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy reveals the excuses given to investigators working for the HMRC, with some bosses believing it is "part of UK culture" not to pay young workers for the first three months and one employer claiming the fact his accountant spoke a different language was why he didn't pay his staff the legal minimum.

In April, the national minimum wage for over 25s will increase to £7.50 an hour from the current rate of £7.20. The rate will also increase for apprentices and various ages groups between 16 and 24.

The government's campaign to make sure workers know how much they are legally entitled to will also feature bus and billboard advertisements.

Business Minister Margot James said: "There are no excuses for underpaying staff what they are legally entitled to. 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 as soon as possible.

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

Most bizarre excuses for underpaying staff the national minimum wage:

  1. The employee wasn't a good worker so I didn't think they deserved to be paid the national minimum wage.
  2. It's part of UK culture not to pay young workers for the first three months as they have to prove their 'worth' first.
  3. I thought it was ok to pay foreign workers below the national minimum wage as they aren't British and therefore don't have the right to be paid it.
  4. She doesn't deserve the national minimum wage because she only makes the teas and sweeps the floors.
  5. I've got an agreement with my workers that I won't pay them the national minimum wage; they understand and they even signed a contract to this effect.
  6. My accountant and I speak a different language – he doesn't understand me and that's why he doesn't pay my workers the correct wages.
  7. My workers like to think of themselves as being self-employed and the national minimum wage doesn't apply to people who work for themselves.
  8. My workers are often just on standby when there are no customers in the shop; I only pay them for when they're actually serving someone.
  9. My employee is still learning so they aren't entitled to the national minimum wage.
  10. The national minimum wage doesn't apply to my business.

The national minimum wage from 1 April 2017 will be:

  • £7.50 per hour - 25 yrs old and over
  • £7.05 per hour - 21-24 yrs old
  • £5.60 per hour - 18-20 yrs old
  • £4.05 per hour - 16-17 yrs old
  • £3.50 for apprentices under 19 or 19 or over who are in the first year of apprenticeship.