Caroline Lucas, the MP for Brighton Pavilion, criticises government departments today for not paying the Living Wage to some agency staff.

The living wage, set at £8.55 an hour in London and £7.45 an hour in the rest of the UK, has widespread political support. The Prime Minister has said he agrees with it in principle.

However, Lucas submitted parliamentary questions to four government departments asking them how many staff working for them receive less than the living wage. The response from DEFRA, received last night, reveals that it employs 41 people through an agency using the “Swedish derogation”, which can allow agencies to pay temporary workers less than those on permanent contracts.

Of these 41 workers, 13 in London receive less than the London Living Wage, and one outside London receives less than the National Living Wage.

The Department of Energy and Climate Change replied that “There are 21 staff based primarily in DECC buildings working for the facilities management contractor and six working for the catering contractor who receive less than the London living wage.”

The Department of Business, Innovation and Skills did not answer the question about the Living Wage, arguing that “there is no universally agreed definition.” The Department for Work and Pensions said none of its staff are employed using the Swedish derogation, but did not answer the question about the Living Wage.

Caroline Lucas by The Health Hotel

Caroline Lucas by The Health Hotel

Caroline Lucas, MP for Brighton Pavilion, said:

This Government says it wants to support hard-working people. It could start by paying them a living wage.

While it can be complicated to ensure that workers employed through agencies are paid decently, some of these departments have managed to pay out millions in bonuses to their highest paid staff. At the very least, they should be taking action to ensure the Living Wage will apply in the near future.

And I find it very worrying that the Business department says there’s no agreed definition of the Living Wage. Employers across the country are signing up to the campaign, and the Government should be leading by example.”

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