Pandemic has made it increasingly difficult to cope on low income
A consumer rights charity is demanding a higher minimum wage and a crackdown on employers who refuse to pay their workers the legal minimum.
The call comes in a submission to the Low Pay Commission, which has called for evidence on the issue.
Citizens Advice Scotland made the demand as it published its submission to the commission.
Its social justice spokesperson Mhoraig Green said that even before the covid-19 crisis, its bureaux in Scotland were already seeing people who were struggling on low wages.
Workers receiving National Living Wage (NLW) still had budgeting struggles, through a combination of high costs, low wages, and limited and unpredictable social security support.
She added: “The pandemic has made matters even more difficult, demonstrating again how little security low-paid work offers. We’ve seen a jump in the proportion of advice on employment and Universal Credit in the last few months, despite significant efforts by government to support those affected.
“Gaps in support have left many relying on crisis grants and food parcels, with newly negative budgets making it likely that some will sink into debt. Retail, tourism and hospitality, care, cleaning and construction are all sectors that seem particularly affected.
So in our submission we are calling for better pay, and better conditions, for low paid workers. And we also call for a crackdown on employers who flout the law by not paying their workers the legal minimum.”
The submission states: “Retail, hospitality, cleaning, construction and care (including healthcare) work are all sectors showing up repeatedly in citizens alerts post-Covid-19. While we have seen a surge in new clients since mid-March, which will include some on higher wages, the level of crisis seen suggests a wage level that did not afford much financial resilience to sudden income shocks.”
It adds that some low paid sectors, such as onsite hospitality and non-essential retail, have all but ceased operating during lockdown, and will struggle to return to normal levels of activity while maintaining social distancing for staff and customers, even as restrictions ease.
Others, such as care work, essential retail, cleaning, takeaway food outlets and courier work, have carried on during the outbreak or become even more essential, but with additional pressures and health and safety challenges. Most often, these have not come with additional compensation.
Those who have been able to work from home may have made significant savings through their lack of commute or pause on spending on social activities, the submission states.