In June, the Resolution Foundation, an independent think-tank focused on improving the living standards for those on low to middle incomes, published a report proposing a programme of change for the 4.2 million low paid workers in Britain.
The Foundation hopes that, as the UK begins to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, the time will be right for society to re-evaluate its approach to lower paid workers. This is not least because, since the start of the pandemic, lower earners are three times as likely to have lost their job or been furloughed as compared to higher earners, and they are twice as likely to perform roles which expose them to health risks.
The Foundation’s report focuses on five areas for change which it believes, in combination with a higher minimum wage, would result in a “new settlement” for lower paid workers in the UK. In summary, the new settlement would include:
- Higher wages: Continued increases to the minimum wage, with the aim of abolishing low pay by the middle of this decade by raising the National Living Wage to two-thirds of typical hourly pay.
- Control over working hours:Workers should have the right to a contract that reflects the actual hours they work, including a right to two weeks’ advance notice of work schedules, and to compensation where shifts are cancelled or changed without reasonable notice.
- Control over timing of wages:Lower paid earners should have a degree of control over when they are paid by allowing those that work for larger organisations to choose how regularly they are paid, and involving them in decisions about payroll, even where they work for smaller employers.
- Increased access to employment rights: Lower paid workers typically have fewer employment rights and protections than higher earning employees. The settlement proposes an extension to sick pay for lower earners (both in terms of statutory sick pay and occupational health plans) and that workers should benefit from unfair dismissal protection after one year’s employment (currently two years’ service is required).
- Enforcement of labour market rules: The Single Enforcement Body (the new single body proposed under the Good Work Plan which will be responsible for enforcing employment rights) should be introduced and properly resourced, with powers to proactively protect workers. This includes increasing the fines for underpayment of the minimum wage and resourcing local authorities so they can carry out health and safety spot checks.
- Institutional innovation to drive up standards:Unions should be given the right to enter workplaces to raise awareness among workers, and 21st century Wage Boards should be established in a small number of industries in clear need of improved standards, starting with social care.
As is clear from the above summary, the report is not solely focused on achieving higher wages for the UK’s lower earners. Its core emphasis is to ensure that this section of the nation’s workforce receives the same treatment in practice, as well as in theory, as those at the higher paid end of the spectrum.
The full report can be found here.