[Scotland] Nearly 37,000 Workers Paid Below Legal Minimum Wage

Tens of thousands of workers in Scotland were paid beneath the legal minimum wage last year, according to figures released by Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS), The Herald reports.

Experts from the charity analysed HMRC data for last year, and say their findings show that as many as 36,876 Scottish employees were paid below the statutory minimum for the work they carried out. The UK average for salary arrears from business owners to employees is approximately £6,500 (link via original reporting).

Mhoraig Green - the CAS social justice spokesperson - described the figures as “a wake-up call” for Boris Johnson’s new Government. She said, “These 37,000 workers are just the tip of the iceberg. Many more in the informal economy won’t be identified in these numbers. This should act as a wake-up call to our new Government to ensure that 2020 is the year the minimum wage must become a legal reality.

“Our network in Scotland sees hundreds of thousands of people every year, and a significant proportion of our clients experience in-work poverty. This indicates that the current minimum wage rates are not sufficient to enable many people to live above poverty levels, even when they are paid in full.

“With living costs rising and social security support reducing, people who go out to work should be able to earn a wage that allows them to live a decent life, provide for their family and live in dignity. That is clearly not the case for too many households.

“Our advisers gave out almost 12,000 pieces of advice relating to pay and entitlements at work last year, and we regularly see cases of employers paying illegally low rates, or refusing to pay holiday pay, which all workers are entitled to. Particularly common are cases involving non-UK nationals, and workers who are paid ‘cash in hand’ or not given written contracts or payslips.

“The figures we publish today are simply unacceptable. Employers need to understand that paying the statutory minimum wage rate for their workers is not optional. It is the law.”

More than 400,000 UK workers were paid beneath the £7.83 per hour national minimum wage last year. This legal minimum (for over 25s) went up to £8.21 in 2019. Campaigners continue to demand a “real living wage” of £9.30 per hour. The living wage is backed by the Scottish Government and around 1,700 business in Scotland are reportedly accredited living wage employers.

The real living wage is a minimum figure based on the current cost of living. The Living Wage Foundation says 470,000 people in Scotland earn less than the real living wage at present and 182,000 children live in poverty today despite having one employed person in the household.

Jamie Hepburn - Scotland’s Minister for Business, Fair Work and Skills - said, “The UK national living wage is the minimum requirement that all workers should be paid by law, and there is no excuse for employers to pay less.

“The Scottish Government supports the payment of the real living wage of £9.30 per hour as a minimum rate for all workers over the age of 18.

“Pay legislation remains reserved, and the UK Government should do more to ensure employers comply with their obligations.

“Meanwhile, we will continue to encourage every organisation, regardless of size, sector or location to ensure all staff receive a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work as part of our progressive Scottish Fair Work approach.”