Women more likely than men to be paid less than minimum wage

Two thirds of between 300,000 to 600,000 workers who are illegally paid below the minimum wage are women.

Women are more likely to be paid below the minimum wage than men and they’re less likely to complain about it, a new report shows.

Women make up two-thirds of workers who are paid less than the minimum wage, a report from the Low Pay Commission (LPC) — which advises the government on minimum wage — shows today.

Women are also less likely to complain about underpayment: only half of complaints logged about pay concerns came from women last year whilst two-thirds were underpaid, figures show.

Previous investigations by HM Revenue and Customs also show that 62 per cent of the underpaid workers are women.

Even without being underpaid, women already make up the majority of those who receive the minimum wage.

The LPC report also found that public sector workers were over three times more likely to be underpaid than their private sector colleagues.

Salaried staff are more often underpaid than hourly paid staff, also, possibly because they don’t notice when overtime means they slip under the minimum rate.

Teaching assistants and nursing auxiliaries are two professions particularly vulnerable to underpayment, the report found.

Some groups of workers have a “reluctance or inability to complain”, says the report from the LPC, which goes on:

“Lack of awareness is one of the reasons for not complaining across all underpaid workers. Over half of low-paid workers think that the law allows them to agree to be paid less than the minimum wage.” 

The report goes on to show that almost 1 in 5 workers may be paid less than what they are legally entitled to, and the total number of people being paid below the minimum wage is could be considerably higher than previously thought.

It estimated that between 305,000 and 579,000 over-25s were paid less than the national living wage during 2016-2017. Bryan Sanderson, chair of the LPC, said:

“With more workers than ever paid the minimum wage or close to it, more people are at risk of being underpaid. Our analysis finds that up to 1 in 5 people who should be paid at least the minimum wage may in fact receive less.”

Women at the top and the bottom of the employment system are being paid less than male colleagues. It’s a damning inditement of working life in Britain when pay rates continue to entrench historic inequalities. 

Sign up to Left Foot Forward’s weekday progressive roundup here and follow LFF on Twitter

Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.