Important step towards eradicating low pay employment
Building on the progress to date to improve terms and conditions for workers, the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Leo Varadkar TD has announced the introduction of a national living wage for employees. As agreed by Government, the national living wage will be set at 60% of hourly median wages in line with the recommendations of the Low Pay Commission. It will be introduced over a four-year period and will be in place by 2026, at which point it will replace the National Minimum Wage.
The first step towards reaching a living wage will be the 80 cent increase to the National Minimum Wage from 1st January 2023 to €11.30 per hour. This will be followed by gradual increases to the National Minimum Wage until it reaches 60% of hourly median earnings. In 2023, it is estimated that 60% of median earnings would equate to approximately €13.10 per hour.
In 2021, there were 164,000 people earning the National Minimum Wage. All of these workers can now expect an increase in their pay and it is expected that more will benefit from knock-on increases.
Research undertaken by Maynooth University on behalf of the Low Pay Commission has provided evidence that a wage floor set at 60% of hourly median wage can raise workers’ wages without adverse effects on hours worked and employment.
Once the national living wage has come into effect in 2026, subject to an assessment of the impact of the change, the Low Pay Commission will advise on the practicalities of gradually increasing the targeted threshold rate towards 66% of the hourly median wage.
The Tánaiste said:
“Improving terms and conditions for workers must be one of the legacies of the pandemic. Across the country thousands of minimum wage workers, regardless of what job, sector or location they work in, will benefit from this increase. In addition, many more employees will feel the benefits of knock-on increases resulting from the changes.
“The introduction of a living wage is an important step we are taking towards eradicating low-wage employment for all workers and it will be implemented gradually over a four-year period. Once it is successfully in place, the Low Pay Commission will investigate if we can increase the living wage further to reach 66% of hourly median earnings.
“Extensive research and consultation took place – including with employer and worker representative groups, unions and the public – in order to ensure we introduce the living wage in a way which will benefit workers whilst also being manageable for businesses. It’s important to get the balance right.”
The introduction of a living wage in Ireland has been informed by the Low Pay Commission’s report and recommendations on the Living Wage and background research completed by Maynooth University as well as the results of a public consultation held over the summer. The Commission’s report and the accompanying research report are available at gov.ie – Publications from the Low Pay Commission.
The Low Pay Commission is an independent body established under the National Minimum Wage (Low Pay Commission) Act 2015 and comprises equal numbers of employer representatives, employee representatives, and independent experts.
Further information on moving to a national living wage:
- the living wage will be set at 60% of the median wage
- the national minimum wage will remain in place until the 60% living wage is achieved in 2026, but will increase over the years as usual, closing the gap between it and the national living wage
- from 2026, we will no longer have a national minimum wage, the national living wage will be the floor and will be mandatory for all employers
The Commission made 18 recommendations on the progression to a living wage. The main recommendations are as follows:
- adopting a fixed threshold approach for the calculation of a living wage (as opposed to a Minimum Essential Standard of Living/“basket of goods” approach) and setting the fixed threshold at 60% of the median wage in the economy
- progressing to a living wage of 60% of the economy-wide median wage through a gradual adjustment to the minimum wage over a period of no more than 5 years
- after the 60% of the median wage target has been reached, subject to an assessment of the impact of the progression to the 60%, the Commission should assess the economic practicality of gradually increasing the targeted threshold rate towards 66% of the median wage
- consideration is given to how employers with a substantial proportion of minimum wage employees can be supported during the progression to a living wage
- consideration of the impact of a move to a living wage rate on the take home pay of different categories of workers to ensure that low wage workers receive a reasonable increase in take home pay
- the LPC will have discretion to use adjustment mechanisms to speed up or slow down progress towards 60% of the hourly median wage in response to any specific circumstances that have had a significant impact on economic conditions