Women are “more likely to be paid less” than the National Minimum Wage (NMW), according to new research.
The Low Pay Commission (LPC), which published the report, also says women are least likely to complain about underpayment.
According to the research, two-thirds of employees who are paid less than the NMW are women, while the total number of people not receiving the full NMW “may be considerably higher than previously thought”.
It said as many as 305,000 to 580,000 workers may be underpaid in the UK. This is compared to TUC figures, which previously suggested that number to be around 250,000.
The Commission also highlighted that many employers are slow to amend wages after the NMW has been increased.
It found that between three and six months after the NMW is increased, around 13 per cent of those entitled to it are still being underpaid.
The report added that, sometimes, there are valid reasons for paying under the NMW – for example, accommodation and other benefits may be paid for.
Commenting on the report, Chair of the Low Pay Commission Bryan Sanderson said: “With more workers than ever paid the minimum wage or close to it, more people are at risk of being underpaid. Our analysis finds that up to one in five people who should be paid at least the minimum wage may in fact receive less.
“The LPC welcomes the recent increases in funding for HMRC’s enforcement of the minimum wage, and recognises the progress it has made. However, we also think there is more the Government could do to identify non-compliance and stop it happening in the first place. In our report we lay out recommendations for ways the Government could go further.”