A report in the Guardian last year alleged that Sports Direct was paying some workers effective hourly rates of pay below the National Minimum Wage. My Shadow Front Bench colleagues rightly called for the Government to order an urgent investigation concerning the allegations. If the allegations are true, I would expect HM Revenue & Customs to fully investigate and leave no stone unturned.
As you may now be aware, Sports Direct announced in December 2015 that it would pay its staff more than the National Minimum Wage from the start of January this year. The Chair of the Business, Innovations and Skills Committee has invited the deputy chairman of Sports Direct to give evidence about this commitment and to a committee inquiry into employee rights, working conditions and low-paid agency work. I will closely follow this and any other developments.
I am proud that the last Labour Government introduced the National Minimum Wage, when people in our country were earning as little as £1 an hour. However, it is estimated that at least 250,000 workers are not being paid the National Minimum Wage, and in the last Parliament it was revealed that just nine firms had been charged for non-compliance with National Minimum Wage legislation. I would like to see real action from the Government in enforcing the National Minimum Wage.
In addition, a Living Wage is not only effective in terms of tackling poverty wages, but benefits those companies that pay it, and it benefits the economy overall.
In 2014, there were some 6 million employee jobs paid less than a living wage in the UK. The Government announced in the Summer Budget that in April 2016, they will introduce a mandatory ‘National Living Wage’ of £7.20 per hour. This is less than the Living Wage Foundation’s living wage rate and is effectively a higher National Minimum Wage.
I fought the last General Election on a manifesto that included plans to encourage more employers to pay a proper living wage through ‘Make Work Pay’ contracts which would offer tax rebates to companies that signed up to become living wage employers. I believe that this government needs to do much more to move everyone towards a Living wage economy for all.