Full-time workers in Scotland being paid the legal minimum rate have lost out on more than £8,000 over the last five years compared to those on the so-called Real Living Wage, according to an industry body.
Workers are being urged to check their pay packets as the National Living Wage rises by 2.2% to £8.91 on Thursday, the equivalent of more than £345 extra a year for a full-time employee.
The rise will benefit around 147,000 Scots and will also be given to 23 and 24-year-olds for the first time.
However since its introduction more than five years ago, research by the Living Wage Foundation found a full-time worker north of the border on the legal minimum has lost out on £8,400 compared to those earning the Real Living Wage.
The Real Living Wage stands at £9.50 across Scotland and a full-time worker over the age of 23 earning this will receive £1,150 more over the coming year compared to a worker earning the minimum wage.
It is voluntarily paid by more than 1,900 Scottish employers who “choose to go beyond the government minimum”.
According to the Poverty Alliance, around 300 companies have signed up for Living Wage accreditation since the first coronavirus lockdown last March.
Its director Peter Kelly said: “Thousands of workers in Scotland earning the legal minimum wage rates rely on legislation to secure an essential pay increase each year.
“Even the highest statutory wage rate – the national living wage of £8.91 – will not protect workers from in-work poverty.
“Decent pay and conditions for workers must be at the heart of our recovery as we rebuild our economy.
“More employers across Scotland are recognising the benefits of paying at least the Real Living Wage, resulting in a healthier, more motivated and resilient workforce.
“Our Living Wage Scotland programme seeks to celebrate employers that have committed to paying the Real Living Wage as their chosen minimum.”
Ahead of the increase, UK Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said: “We know this has been a tough year for workers across Scotland, particularly the lowest paid, which is why we’re bringing in this increase to the National Living Wage and National Minimum Wage.
“From the Highlands to the Borders, this increase will give around 150,000 Scots and their families additional financial security as the UK starts to recover from the pandemic.
“I’d urge all workers to check their pay packet to ensure they’re getting what they are entitled to, and remind employers of their duty to pay their employees the correct wage.”
Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said: “As we emerge from such a tough year and face up to the huge economic challenges ahead, this is a well-deserved boost for 150,000 of Scotland’s lowest paid workers.
“This is further proof of the strength of the United Kingdom and why we are determined to block an SNP majority and ensure all our focus is on rebuilding and recovery instead of another damaging referendum.
“Since the pandemic began, Scotland has received over £13.3 billion extra from the UK Government while more than one million jobs have been protected through furlough.”
A government spokesperson said: “Today’s increase in National Living Wage and National Minimum Wage, recommended by the independent Low Pay Commission, will help millions of people around the country, including around 150,000 of Scotland’s lowest-paid workers.
“To support our next generation of workers, we’ve also lowered the age threshold for the Living Wage to 23 – ensuring even more people have the security of a decent wage.”