Chapter 6: How to enforce minimum wages

6.7 Recovery of wages due and protection against victimization

Simplify administrative procedures

Enabling workers to exercise their rights to back wages and wages due to underpayment is part and parcel of minimum wage enforcement. In a large number of countries, workers can exercise this right in the courts or with administrative authorities. However, requiring workers to lodge court cases to recover unpaid amounts is often burdensome and can involve lengthy and costly processes.

This is why a number of countries provide for simpler administrative proceedings. Some countries have empowered labour inspectors to directly order the payment of wage arrears, such as Canada, South Africa, Thailand, Turkey and the United States.

The ILO Committee of Experts noted in the General Survey 2015 that among the range of measures to be taken regarding minimum wage compliance, it was important to:

…ensure accessible and effective legal remedies for employees whose minimum wage rights have not been respected, so that they can recover unpaid amounts owed to them. In the absence of such measures, regardless of the administrative or penal sanctions applied to offenders, the situation resulting from non-compliance would not be rectified, as the wages would remain unpaid. Finally, the effective use of these remedies by the workers concerned can only be ensured if they are protected against the risk of victimization to which they may be exposed for initiating proceedings against their employer; this risk is particularly acute in periods of economic crisis, which are marked by high levels of unemployment. (para. 327)