Council decision-makers said it was “worrying” after a report from council officers claimed that more than 67,000 working people are earning less than £8.75-an-hour – the figure the Living Wage Foundation charity claims people need to live.
The report also states 32,000 of workers in the city were earning less than the government’s National Living Wage – a relatively low £7.50-an-hour.
Discussing the report during a Leeds City Council scrutiny meeting, Coun Paul Truswell (Lab) said: “This is something that causes concern every time it is reported back.
“The fact that such a significant number – around ten percent of the full time equivalent working residents in Leeds – earn less than the government’s national living wage.
“This is not an issue specifically for the council because we don’t have the responsibility for enforcing the minimum wage or living wage. But this just seems to be a really, really worrying proportion, and I am just wondering who is responsible for chasing up compliance with national living wage and how might we prompt them to work a little bit more effectively?”
A council officer responded: “HMRC is responsible for monitoring and taking action. There are a number of helplines and places that you can report this – we could perhaps give greater visibility to some of those.
“We want to support employers that wish to treat their employees well, give them a voice and pay them the living wage. That is something we can give greater profile too.”
The report, whose figures were based on estimates from the Office for National Statistics, also claimed low pay disproportionately affected part-time workers – with nearly half earning below the real living wage.
Coun Hannah Bithell (Lab) said: “It is absolutely right to mention the full-time equivalent, but we’ve also got very similar issues with part time workers – in that they are much higher numbers below the minimum wage.
“There is also a lack of improvement in part time employees’ (pay) – more so than full time employees.
“There is potential for a gender split.”
The council officer responded: “It tends to be women that that impacts on, in a greater proportion – it tends to be in the low skilled, low paid sectors such as retail, cleaning, laundry.
“We need to show the benchmarks of what is a good employer – treating employees well, reducing the use of agency staff and zero-hours contracts.
“We have a plan of work to roll this out to businesses – we are talking about how we are working with them to see how to influence this more wisely.
“We recognise the issue and we know we have to do something about it.”