Low pay

Low pay affects many UNISON members. Although there is a national minimum wage in place, there are still many members who are living in poverty. UNISON campaigns for a living wage as a minimum.

Low pay: an introduction

Low pay can affect members financially and emotionally. Low pay may mean that a member cannot afford to buy important things for themself or their family. Living on low pay can lead people into debt and feelings of low self-esteem.

The government’s department of work and pensions defines low pay as any family earning less than 60% of the national median pay. On this basis, there are more than 13 million people in the UK living in low-income households.

Low pay has also been defined in relation to the cost of living by the Minimum Income Standard Project. By their calculations, for a single person household anything less than £19,200 a year, before tax, counts as low pay.

UNISON offers practical advice and campaigns for members to receive a liveable wage as a minimum, as well as bargaining and negotiating with individual employers to improve wages.

UNISON is also campaigning to increase childcare facilities, because high childcare costs often cause household poverty.

The impact of low pay

Workers earning low pay may have to make sacrifices for their family and in many instances low pay leads to children living in poverty. If you would like to get involved with low pay campaigning, contact your UNISON rep for information on activities and action on low pay.

The UK government has set a goal to eradicate child poverty by 2020, but this is focused on out-of-work poverty – situations where both parents are out of work – and many low-income households are in-work.

How to cope with low pay

In many cases UNISON can help if you are not being given training to give you the opportunity to increase your wage, and make sure that you are paid the correct amount. UNISON can also help identify benefits financial support or tax breaks that may be right for you.

National minimum wage

There are varying national minimum wage brackets for different ages in the UK.

Since April 2021, the hourly national minimum wage rates are:

  • £8.91 for workers aged 23 and above;
  • £8.36 for workers aged 21-22;
  • £6.56 for workers aged 18-20;
  • £4.62 for workers aged 16-17;
  • £4.30 for apprentices under 19, or in the first year of their apprenticeship.

If you are not being paid a minimum wage, contact your local UNISON rep, who will make sure you get paid the correct amount.

Even if you sign a contract agreeing to an amount lower than the national minimum wage, you are still entitled to it and your contract is void.

There are some instances where you may not be entitled to national minimum wage. Prison workers, for example, or au pairs are not entitled to the national minimum wage.



Low pay