Comparing policies 2015: Where do the parties stand on the minimum wage?

Part of a series which compares how the main Westminster parties approach particular issues ahead of May’s election.

Increasingly, the hourly minimum wage is not adequate to live on. In the UK, a growing number of families are having to undertake second jobs and rely on pay-day loans to make ends meet, putting them under financial strain not seen for decades. For young people the picture is similarly bleak, with the minimum wage not keeping up with the growing rent prices and offering them no prospects for independence.

  • For under 18’s, the minimum wage is £3.79.
  • For 18-20’s, it’s £5.13.
  • For over 21’s, it’s £6.50.
  • For those on an apprenticeship, it’s £2.73.

The Conservative Party: Instead of raising it, the Tories plan to make sure minimum wage earners pay no tax, effectively letting them get more money from the minimum wage. Chancellor George Osborne has stated that he wants to see the minimum wage increase at current levels to £7 by next year. [Source] [Source]

When Labour introduced the National Minimum Wage Act of 1998, the Conservative Party opposed it. [Source]

From the manifesto:

  • “[We will] pass a law to ensure we have a Tax-Free Minimum Wage in this country” (pg. 4)
  • “We accept the recommendations of the Low Pay Commission that the National Minimum Wage should rise to £6.70 this autumn, on course for a Minimum Wage that will be over £8 by the end of the decade. We also support the Living Wage and will continue to encourage businesses and other organisations to pay it whenever they can afford it” (pg. 22)

Progressive-o-meter rating: 3.

The Labour Party: In 2015, Ed Miliband has stated that he would like to raise the wage to £8 by 2020. Labour introduced the National Minimum Wage Act of 1998. [Source] [Source]

From the manifesto:

  • “We will improve the security and reward of working life by raising the National Minimum Wage to more than £8 an hour by October 2019” (pg. 10)
  • “We will support employers to pay more by using government procurement to promote the Living Wage, alongside wider social impact considerations. Our Make Work Pay contracts will give tax rebates to businesses who sign up to paying the Living Wage in the first year of a Labour Government. Publicly listed companies will be required to report on whether or not they pay the Living Wage” (pg. 23)

Progressive-o-meter rating: 6.

The Liberal Democrats: In 2015, Nick Clegg stated that the apprenticeship minimum wage has risen to £3.30 under his watch, and he hopes to see the national minimum wage continue to rise along current levels. [Source]

When Labour introduced the National Minimum Wage Act of 1998, the Lib Dems supported it. [Source]

From the manifesto:

  • “[We will] ask the Low Pay Commission to look at ways of raising the National Minimum Wage, without damaging employment opportunities. We will improve enforcement action and clamp down on abuses by employers seeking to avoid paying the minimum wage by reviewing practices such as unpaid internships” (pg. 47)
  • “We are clamping down on care workers being paid less than the National Minimum Wage by resourcing and directing HMRC to pursue and prosecute providers who exploit their staff” (pg. 77)

Progressive-o-meter rating: 5.

The UK Independence Party: In 2015, Nigel Farage claimed “the minimum wage in Britain is now nine times what it is in Romania”, ruling out a rise in the minimum wage because it would “attract more foreign labour”. Farage also suggested that the market should have control over what it pays to workers, not the government. [Source]

From the manifesto:

  • “[We will] end income tax on the minimum wage” (pg. 5)
  • “Uncontrolled mass immigration has driven down wages and for many jobs, the minimum wage is now the maximum wage” (pg. 40)

Progressive-o-meter rating: 0.

The Green Party: The Greens wish to see a “genuine living wage”, which means a minimum wage of £10 by 2020, in order to reduce the “topping up” of low wages by government grants and benefits. [Source]

From the manifesto:

  • “We will increase the minimum wage so that it is a living wage. We propose a minimum wage target for everyone who is working in the UK of £10 per hour by 2020. In 2015 this would mean a minimum wage of £8.10 an hour generally (and £9.40 in London), saving £2.4 billion a year in tax credits and generating an additional £1.5 billion a year in income tax and National Insurance” (pg. 46)

Progressive-o-meter rating: 8.

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