The Low Pay Commission was established in 2015 through the National Minimum Wage (Low Pay Commission) Act 2015. Its principal function is, once each year, to examine the national minimum hourly rate of pay and to make a recommendation to the Minister regarding the rate, ensuring that all decisions are evidence-based, fair and sustainable, and do not create significant adverse consequences for employment or competitiveness.
It is the view of the Commission that a National Minimum Wage (NMW) provides the best model to establish a ‘pay floor’ below which no-one should be expected to work. A ‘pay floor’ protects those workers who are vulnerable and prone to being exploited.
In order to obtain a better understanding of the composition and profile of women on the National Minimum Wage, the Low Pay Commission produced a report on the preponderance of women on the national minimum wage in 2016.
The report found that the three key factors which explain the preponderance of women in low paid work are the
- Cost of Childcare
- Sector of Employment
- Whether working Part-time or full-time
These factors are interlinked; the high cost of childcare leads to many women taking up part-time or temporary work. As this type of work is most readily available in low-pay sectors such as retail and accommodation, women are found in these sectors in disproportionate numbers. Working within these sectors and working part-time greatly increases the likelihood of being in receipt of the NMW and may go some of the way towards explaining the preponderance of women on the NMW. The Government has recognised the impact and importance of the costs of childcare both to parents and to the labour market, and are taking steps to tackle the issue of affordability of childcare through the National Childcare Scheme.
Employment rights legislation was recently strengthened by the addition of the Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2018, which is one of the most significant pieces of employment legislation in a generation. The Act delivers on the Programme for Government commitment to address the challenges of the increased casualisation of work and to strengthen the regulation of precarious employment. The key objective of the Act, which came into effect on 4 March 2019, is to improve the security and predictability of hours for those working in less secure employment arrangements and those working variable hours. In a changing world, this reform ensures that the legal protections for all workers, including women, will match the conditions experienced by a modern workforce and make a real difference in the lives of thousands of workers.