The Trades Union Congress (TUC) is calling on the Low Pay Commission (LPC) to increase the national minimum wage to more than £6 an hour next year.
Workers (aged 22 years plus) are entitled to a basic wage of £5.52 an hour, falling to £4.60 for those aged 18 to 21, with younger workers (aged 16 to 17 years old) taking home £3.40.
The TUC says that the adult rate should be payable from aged 18 and not 22 as it is at present.
TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: “Although some economic commentators have been jittery, the UK economy is basically sound. They should remember that we have both record levels of employment and a record number of businesses in the UK. Economic growth is set to continue next year and we expect to see 175,000 extra jobs created. All the signs are that the UK can afford a £6 hourly wage.”
The TUC also proposes that the LPC establishes an initial penalty for all underpaying employers and makes them pay arrears at current minimum wage rates. The maximum fine for employers who deliberately break the law should be greatly increased from the current limit of £5,000, says the union body.
Further requests include increasing the youth rate (aged 16 to 17) faster than average earnings and extending the role of HM Revenue and Customs to clampdown on wrongdoing, allowing unions to take representative and group actions to employment tribunals; establishing tough new rules to stamp out the abuse of unpaid work experience and stopping the government from going ahead with plans to exempt certain voluntary workers from the national minimum wage.
Earlier this year, HR Zone reported that workers in the UK enjoy one of the highest minimum wages in the EU, falling just behind Ireland and Luxembourg.