The government has launched its campaign to raise awareness of the increase in national minimum wage rates – and the so-called national living wage – which will come into force on 1 April.
The new rates are:
- 25 and over – £7.50 an hour;
- 21 to 24 – £7.05 an hour;
- 18 to 20 – £5.60 an hour;
- 16 to 17 –£4.05 an hour;
- apprentice rate – £3.50 an hour.
UNISON has consistently campaigned for the independent living wage rates, announced by the Living Wage Foundation and Greater London mayor and calculated on the amount someone needs to earn for a basic but decent life.
This is currently £8.45 an hour outside London and £9.75 an hour in London, which has a higher cost of living.
UNISON’s Andrew Anderson, who represents young members on the union’s executive, accused the government of “trying to get away with doing the bare minimum”.
He pointed out that April’s increases will “do nothing to address the age discrimination built into the rates.
“How can anyone justify a situation where two people could be alongside each other doing identical work but a 17-year-old will get £4.05 an hour and a 25-year-old will get £7.50 an hour?
“It’s time for a real, independently-calculated living wage that doesn’t discriminate by age, and not the phoney one that the government has deliberately sought to mislead people with, but is just a fifth tier of the national minimum wage.”
The minimum wage is enforced by HM Revenue and Customs which runs a “pay and work rights helpline on 0800 917 2368. Workers can call this in confidence if they think they are not being paid the minimum wage or need advice.
However, Mr Anderson added: “We welcome more resources for government minimum wage enforcement, but it is not enough given the scale of the problem.
“If workers feel insecure they can be reluctant to phone the official helpline to ask HMRC to investigate. UNISON members who think they are being under paid illegally can always contact their branch for help.”