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Low-paid workers confused over deductions from wages

Populus polling conducted on behalf of the Government has found that low-paid workers are not clear about what they should be paid and the types of deductions employers can take from their salaries.

According to the results, 69% of people earning less than £15,000 a year did not know they should be paid for travel time between appointments, while almost half were unaware that tips cannot be used to top pay up to the legal minimum.

Over half (57%) also had no idea that money taken from their wages to pay for uniforms was against the law if it takes their earnings below the national minimum wage (NMW) or national living wage (NLW).

The research shows that:

    • One-third (33%) of low-paid workers are unaware that the Government’s NMW and NLW will increase on April 1st 2017

    • One-third (34%) of low-paid workers said they would speak to their employer to make sure they are paid the Government’s increase NMW or NLW, compared to two-thirds (66%) who would not

    • The majority (63%) of low-paid workers who intend to speak to their employers about increases to the NMW and NLW are sure that their salaries will increase as a result

    • One-in-five (20%) of those who intend to speak to their employers do not know how they will react

    • Two-in-five (42%) of those who do not intend to speak to their employer say that this is because their employer will increase the rate automatically

The study of 1,400 workers was carried out ahead of the launch of a national advertising campaign by the Government to help make sure low-paid workers are aware of their rights. The minimum wage and NLW increased in April 1 2017.

Business minister Margot James said:

“We are determined to make sure everybody in work receives a fair wage and while most employers get it right, there are still a small number who fail to play by the rules. This campaign will raise awareness among the lowest paid people in society about what they must legally receive.

Employers have been known to make excuses for underpaying workers to tax authorities. Some use tips to top up pay to the minimum wage and make staff pay for uniforms out of their salary while others refuse to pay staff for shutting up shops, time waiting for security checks or time spent travelling between appointments.

The campaign seeks to combat this by highlighting some of the most common examples of when a worker may be paid under the legal minimum in a bid to encourage workers to check their pay.”

Stewart Gee, head of guidance at workplace advice service Acas, said:

“It is important for employers to stay within the law and for workers to be fully aware of the pay that they are legally entitled to.”

Jennie Granger from HMRC added:

“Paying the national minimum wage is the law – it’s not a choice. Employers must pay workers what they’re entitled to and follow the rules. We will act to ensure ripped-off workers receive their proper pay and hard-working business are not losing out to dodgy dealers who cheat their staff.”


Populus interviewed a random sample of 1,435 UK adults who are currently working aged 16+ earning less than £15,000 a year from its online panel between 14 and 20 February 2017. Surveys were conducted across the country and the results have been weighted to the profile of all adults. Populus is a founder member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.

Populus research is relied on by businesses, research agencies and government bodies as a cost-effective way of uncovering the insight they need to achieve their objectives. in the UK and 75 countries worldwide. Find out more about our Omnibus Solutions.

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