jobs still being advertised below new thresholds

  • Post last modified:April 2, 2024
  • Reading time:7 mins read

Office workers and other salaried staff are already at risk of being “cheated” out of the minimum wage (the so-called ‘national living wage’) by their employer. The warning from the Trades Union Congress (TUC) comes as the government introduced new minimum wage rates from Monday 1 April. The Canary found that there were already jobs being advertised that broke these laws.

Minimum wage: bosses already not complying

A salaried worker – many of whom are office workers – is paid an annual salary which stays the same regardless of fluctuations in the hours they work. This is paid in equal payments, usually monthly or 4-weekly.

Trades Union Congress (TUC) analysis shows that for an employer to be minimum wage compliant as of 1 April:

  • Workers doing 35 hours per week will have to be paid at least £20,821 a year.
  • Workers doing 37.5 hours per week will have to be paid at least £22,308 a year.
  • Workers doing 40 hours per week will have to be paid at least £23,795 a year.
  • Workers doing 42.5 hours per week will have to be paid at least £25,282 a year.

On Tuesday 2 April, the Canary easily found jobs being advertised that were below these thresholds. This one is for £19,500 for a full-time week:

The below job is for a 40-hour week – with the bottom level of pay falling below the legal limit:

The Low Pay Commission estimates that over 430,000 salaried workers are on the minimum wage or less. But as the minimum wage rises, many more salaried workers may be within scope – and will find that they are being illegally underpaid if their salaries do not rise.

Salaried jobs have almost doubled as a proportion of minimum wage jobs since 2015. LPC analysis finds that 14.6% of minimum wage jobs were salaried in 2015 compared to 28.8% in 2023.

Unpaid overtime

Even where salaries do go up, the TUC says many salaried workers could still be facing an additional risk of underpayment. This is because many will also be putting in hours of unpaid overtime. Although they might be paid the minimum wage or above for their contracted hours, their unpaid overtime could mean they are working hourly for less than the minimum wage.

UK employers claimed £26bn of free labour last year because of workers doing unpaid overtime, according to TUC analysis. The average weekly unpaid overtime is just over 7 hours.

That means a British salaried worker who is contracted 35 hours per week who does the typical amount of overtime would need to be paid £25,000 to be paid the minimum wage at an hourly rate.

The law sets out that employers must pay at least the minimum wage for all hours actually worked, even if they are in addition to the hours in the worker’s contract.

The TUC warns desk-based office workers are often expected to put in hours of overtime as part of their job.

Underpayment in the first month

The TUC has warned April will likely see more than a quarter of a million workers paid less than the minimum wage this month, as the new rate of the minimum wage comes into force.

The union body says the significant scale of underpayment when a new rate comes in underlines the “urgent need for investment in our enforcement system”.

TUC general secretary Paul Nowak said:

The minimum wage is the very least employers should pay their workers. It’s their legal duty.

But too many workers are cheated out of pay by bad bosses, who choose to pay staff illegally low rates.

Minimum wage cheats exploit workers from a range of jobs – and desk-based office jobs are no exception.

And to make matters worse, many desk-based workers are expected to put in hours of overtime for free. That’s not right.

Featured image via YuriArcursPeopleimages – Envato Elements

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