Government still failing miserably to enforce minimum wage

SNP MP, Alison Thewliss, has hit out at new data which suggests that the Government is failing miserably to get a grip on tackling low and exploitative pay.

Commenting following the publication of answers to a series of written parliamentary questions she tabled, the Glasgow MP said Prime Minister Theresa May’s apparent desire to tackle the “burning injustices” in society, as well as efforts to support the “just about managing”, was nothing more than empty rhetoric.

Seizing on data released to her by Treasury and Cabinet Office Ministers, Ms Thewliss said this wasn’t the first time she had raised the issue, having requested similar data from Government officials last year. Following that, she wrote a scathing letter to the former Prime Minister David Cameron, urging him to make tackling low pay a priority.

Commenting, Glasgow Central SNP MP Alison Thewliss said:

“Last summer might have seen a change of occupant in 10 Downing Street but it appears to be business as usual for this Tory Government; they appear to have no interest whatsoever in tackling pay inequality and exploitation. Theresa May’s impassioned speech on the steps of Downing Street has been exposed again and again as empty rhetoric.

“Disappointingly, when I obtained last year’s data from the Government, over 100,000 Scots were still being paid below the national minimum wage. This is in stark contrast to the Scottish Government, and huge swathes of Scotland’s public services, who pay the real living wage of £8.45 per hour.

“House of Commons Library figures reveal that for 2015-16 alone 950 employers have been found by HMRC not to be paying the minimum wage. Over the past decade only 13 prosecutions have taken place for non-compliance, which simply beggars belief.

“These shocking figures also show that the Government is doing very little to crack down on employers who aren’t complying with National Minimum Wage legislation passed almost two decades ago. Indeed, the Minister’s response reveals the Government don’t think it’s worth prosecuting companies for non-compliance. This sends an incredibly worrying signal to exploitative employers who will think it is perfectly acceptable to pay peanuts for a fair day’s work.

“If Theresa May is truly serious about supporting the “just about managing” in society, she needs to implement an urgent action plan.

“The Prime Minister should start by cracking down heavily on exploitative employers who are flouting minimum wage laws. Companies won’t take this matter seriously if all they can expect is a rap on the knuckles.

“Theresa May should implement a real living wage, as set by the Living Wage Foundation, rather than the pale imitation being punted by her Chancellor. The real Living Wage is being successfully promoted by the Scottish Government, with Scottish Canals being announced just this week as the 700th employer in Scotland to sign up.

“Thirdly, and as part of an action plan, we need to have genuine pay equality – not just for women but for young people as well. Currently, the UK Government has a ridiculous system whereby minimum wage rates are set in accordance with age. That means if you’re a sixteen year old apprentice, the law says you can be paid as little as £3.40 per hour. How does that fit into the Prime Minister’s new obsession about a shared society?

“I’ve written to the Prime Minister setting out three very simple and practical steps she could take to tackle this – I hope sincerely I won’t be sending the same action plan next year when I request these figures from the Government again”.

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