Utilities charges must fall within accommodation allowance for minimum wage purposes
In Leisure Employment Services Ltd v HMRC the Court of Appeal confirmed the EAT's decision that the accommodation allowance (or "offset") in regulation 36 of the National Minimum Wage Regulations 1999 covered not only the accommodation itself but any services provided in connection with the accommodation, such as gas and electricity. Therefore an employer that was paying its employees the minimum wage, having already made full use of the accommodation offset, was not entitled to levy a further charge of £6 per fortnight for gas and electricity, even though this was less than the workers would have had to pay to purchase the utilities direct from the supplier. There were strong policy reasons why employers should not be able to levy unrestricted charges on low paid workers since this could lead to abuse. The court held that tribunals should not be asked to investigate the economics of whether workers are being charged unfairly for such services, but should have the task of applying "broad but simple rules". The court also considered the circumstances in which a deduction from wages could be said to be for the employer's "own use and benefit" under regulations 32(1)(b) and 34(1)(c), and held that it was irrelevant that the worker may also derive some benefit from the arrangement.