Almost 37,000 Scots paid less than minimum wage

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Watchdogs have called for a minimum wage "legal reality" as figures show 37,000 people in Scotland were paid less than the statutory rate last year.

Data from Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) also revealed that employers across the UK owed about £6,500 on average in unpaid arrears to workers.

The analysis is of the Scottish working-age population as a percentage of the total UK working age-population.

CAS chiefs say the figures are "unacceptable".

The analysis suggests 36,876 workers were potentially paid less than the minimum wage in Scotland last year.

A UK government spokesman said: "The government is determined that everyone who is entitled to the national minimum wage receives it.

"All businesses, irrespective of size or business sector are responsible for paying the correct minimum wage to their staff. HMRC won't hesitate to take action to ensure that workers receive what they are legally entitled to.

"In 2018/19, HMRC completed over 3,000 investigations, identifying over £24.4m for more than 220,000 workers.

"Consequences for not complying with paying national minimum wage can include fines of 200% of the arrears, and, for the worst offences, criminal prosecution."

'Wake-up call'

CAS social justice spokeswoman Mhoraig Green said it was "just the tip of the iceberg".

She added: "Many more in the informal economy won't be identified in these numbers.

"This should act as a wake-up call to our new government to ensure that 2020 is the year the minimum wage must become a legal reality.

"The current minimum wage rates are not sufficient to enable many people to live above poverty levels, even when they are paid in full."

Advice around employment is the third biggest issue for advice in the Citizens Advice network in Scotland.

Staff issued 43,000 pieces of work-related advice in 2018/19, with 12,000 thousand pieces of advice on pay and entitlements.

'It is the law'

Earlier this year, the charity ran an awareness campaign to boost young people's knowledge about their rights at work.

It is backing a new body to have the powers to investigate national minimum wage breaches along with allowing workers to confidentially report matters involving maternity, holiday, sickness, pay, dismissal, redundancy and other rights.

Ms Green said CAS regularly sees people who are paid illegally-low rates by employers or who have been refused holiday pay, which every worker is entitled to.

She added: "The figures we publish today are simply unacceptable. Employers need to understand that paying the statutory minimum wage rate for their workers is not optional. It is the law."

Scotland's minister for business, fair work and skills, Jamie Hepburn, said the UK government should do more to ensure employers "comply with their obligations".

He said: "The Scottish government supports the payment of the real living wage of £9.30 per hour as a minimum rate for all workers over the age of 18.

"Meanwhile, we will continue to encourage every organisation, regardless of size, sector or location to ensure all staff receive a fair day's pay for a fair day's work as part of our progressive Scottish Fair Work approach."

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