Unions have welcomed increases in the statutory minimum wage rates from Wednesday, saying the country is indebted to “minimum wage heroes”.
The statutory rate for over-25s – the national living wage – will go up from £8.21 an hour to £8.72, while the national minimum wage will go up from £7.70 to £8.20 for 21- to 24-year-olds, from £6.15 to £6.45 for 18- to 20-year-olds and from £4.35 to £4.55 for under-18s.
The hourly rate for apprentices will increase from £3.90 to £4.15.
The new rates are still lower than the voluntary real living wage of £10.75 an hour in London and £9.30 outside the capital.
TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Britain is indebted to its army of minimum wage heroes. Many – including care workers and supermarket staff – are currently on the frontline of the battle against coronavirus. They deserve every penny of this increase, and more.
“The best way to show our respect is to get the minimum wage up to a real living wage as soon as possible.
“Millions of low-paid workers are struggling to make ends meet. That’s not right during a pandemic, or at any time.”
A Government spokesman told the PA news agency: “It is right that workers are fairly rewarded and should not lose out during this time of disruption. Therefore, we will continue with our proposed increases to the national living wage and the national minimum wage in April.
“However, we recognise that this will mean extra costs for some businesses. The Chancellor has announced the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme to help firms continue to keep people in employment.”
Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said: “Today’s pay rise will make a real difference to over a million low-paid workers across the country.
“Many care staff are on the minimum wage. They’re looking after the elderly and vulnerable in the most challenging of circumstances and deserve every penny.
“All employers must ensure their staff get the legal increase.”
Bryan Sanderson, chairman of the Low Pay Commission, said: “Many of the nation’s key workers – in, for example, the care sector, agriculture, transport and retail – are low-paid, are continuing to work in very difficult conditions and will benefit from today’s increase.
“At the same time, the Government has introduced a comprehensive package of support for employers to lessen the impacts of these extraordinary circumstances.
“Under our new remit, the Government asks us to monitor the labour market and the impacts of the National Living Wage closely, advise on any emerging risks and – if the economic evidence warrants it – recommend that the Government reviews its target or timeframe.
“This is what the Government refers to as the ’emergency brake’.
“The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic clearly represents a very challenging set of circumstances for workers and employers alike, and will require us to review whether the emergency brake is required when we next provide our advice to the Government.
“This advice will be crucially dependent as always on the economic data we receive.”