UK lacks strategy to deal with low pay

The UK lacks an effective strategy for dealing with the challenge of low-paid work, despite the economic recovery, according to research by The Work Foundation.


Its report, Rising to the challenge: a policy agenda to tackle low pay, highlighted that low pay now effects 5.1 million (21%) employees and that more than a quarter of low-paid employees remained stuck in low pay for more than a decade.

The report sets out recommendations for government, including:

  • The Low Pay Commission (LPC) should be given a wider remit to reduce the proportion of the workforce in low pay (currently at 21%) to a level close to the OECD average (17%).
  • The LPC should increase the national minimum wage at a faster rate than average earnings over the next few years, given the strength of the recovery.
  • Government should set out best practice by having its departments and local authorities aiming to become living wage employers.
  • FTSE companies should be required to publish the proportion of staff paid below the living wage.
  • Strengthened HR support for small and medium-sized enterprises to offer advice and guidance on job design and HR practices to better manage and support low-paid staff. 

Kathryn Ray, senior researcher at The Work Foundation, said: “Low pay is a problem for both individuals and for society.

“Low pay affects 5.1 million employees and has remained at around this rate for the past 20 years.

“The UK urgently needs a new strategy, one which not only focuses on minimum and living wages, but also looks at giving low-paid workers the training and support needed to ensure they have a realistic chance at career progression.

“Any strategy for tackling the problems associated with low pay must incorporate industrial and innovation policies targeted on low-pay industries, skills utilisation policies, changes to the organisation of work, and the implementation of progression pathways within the workforce.”