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Minimum wage rises for two million workers

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Around two million of the UK’s lowest-paid workers will get a pay rise from Thursday as the minimum wage goes up.

The National Living Wage – previously for those over 25 – will rise by 2.2% to £8.91, the equivalent of more than £345 a year for a full-time employee.

It will also be given to 23 and 24-year-olds for the first time.

And anyone on the voluntary Real Living Wage will get £1,150 more in the coming year, and £3,800 in London, compared with those on the statutory rate.

However, hundreds of thousands of low paid workers on furlough will see no uplift at all after they were excluded.

Ministers said the increases to minimum wages would particularly benefit workers in sectors such as retail, hospitality and cleaning and maintenance.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said it would be “a welcome boost to families right across the UK”.

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng urged “all workers” to check their pay packets to ensure they were “getting what they are entitled to, and remind employers of their duty to pay the correct wage”.

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Minimum wage increases from 1 April:

  • From £8.72 to £8.91 an hour for workers over the age of 23
  • From £8.20 to £8.36 for those aged 21-22
  • From £6.45 to £6.56 for 18 to 20-year-olds
  • From £4.55 to £4.62 for under-18s
  • From £4.15 to £4.30 for apprentices

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However, with much of the UK’s retail and hospitality industries closed due to the pandemic, many of the UK’s lowest paid workers are on furlough and will miss out.

Instead they will continue to get 80% of their usual income, based on pre-Covid rates for the minimum wage.

Around 800,000 of the lowest paid workers were on furlough in February, according to the House of Commons Library.

The government said furloughed workers who returned to work after 1 April would move onto the new minimum wage rates for hours worked.

A woman working in a cafe

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‘Wiped out’

Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the Trades Union Congress, said nobody should be expected to get by on less than the minimum wage.

“Low-paid workers on furlough have bills to pay like everyone else,” she said.

“The government should guarantee that everybody will get at least the full rate of the minimum wage. And it should give all minimum wage workers a decent pay rise.”

Mike Hawking of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation described the boost to the minimum wage as “necessary” but said that the pandemic had revealed the urgency of taking further steps to tackle in-work poverty.

“As we start to recover from the impact of the last year, too many workers are finding that minimum wage increases are being wiped out due to inadequate social security, insufficient hours available to them, and high housing costs.”

Bryan Sanderson, chairman of the Low Pay Commission, which recommends the level at which the minimum wage should be set, said: “This week’s increase is our first step towards the government’s target of two-thirds of median earnings.

“It is a real-terms increase, meaning that an hour’s work can buy more than it could last year at the start of the pandemic. The level of the new rate however also reflects the need to protect workers from job losses.”

The commission said its best estimate for the National Living Wage rate in 2022 is £9.42, but this is subject to more uncertainty than usual and is likely to change.

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Analysis box by Colletta Smith, Consumer affairs correspondent

This rise in the legal minimum wage will be welcome news, particularly as most households across the UK are also seeing their bills going up from the start of April. Planned price rises kick in for gas and electricity, council tax, water charges, the license fee, TV and broadband rates, and NHS prescription charges in England. It’ll be a stretch for many.

For those minimum wage staff who are on furlough at the moment the news is even harder. Pay for those who would normally be working in bars, restaurants, hairdressers, hotels will continue to be based on 80% of their pre-Covid earnings.

They wont get the new pay rise until they start back to work again, but given the timetable on easing restrictions, many may be heading back to full employment soon.

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