Jeremy Corbyn is among 31 Labour MPs demanding new rules to ensure no one whose job is hit by lockdown gets less than minimum wage.
The left-wing backbenchers have penned a letter to Chancellor Rishi Sunak demanding an income “floor” in his Job Support Scheme.
Under the scheme, which begins on Sunday, workers whose venues are shut down will get 67% of their wage.
But that means many low-paid staff will get less than minimum wage – with those over 25 getting as little as £5.81 an hour.
The left-wing MPs – who also include John McDonnell and Diane Abbott – demand a “floor” so that no worker on the JSS will get less than the minimum wage for their age bracket.
They write: “No-one should ever be expected to live on less than the minimum wage. Without such a minimum wage floor to the Job Support Scheme during this pandemic many of our constituents will receive pay that is completely inadequate to meet even their basic needs.
“Even before the pandemic many of them were struggling to make ends meet because of low pay.”
Labour MP and Corbyn ally Richard Burgon, who arranged the letter, said: “It’s called the National Minimum Wage for a reason – the Government needs to act to ensure that nobody is paid less than it.”
The letter appears to go further than Labour’s front bench, which is demanding at least 80% wage support for anyone hit.
Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Jonathan Reynolds said Labour would reform the JSS and Universal Credit to “guarantee those on the lowest incomes don’t pay the price for new restrictions.”
He added: “We’ve called for a raft of changes to Universal Credit that would improve the level of support and expand it to many people who currently don’t get it.”
More than 29million people in England are living under Tier 2 or 3 restrictions – with 8.5million under the worst Tier 3 by this weekend.
Those whose venues are hit but not shut completely can continue working part-time, for between 73% and 100% of their usual salary.
Ministers say workers can have their pay topped up by Universal Credit – but not everyone qualifies, such as those with a high-earning partner or more than £16,000 in savings.
The Treasury was contacted for comment.
The letter in full
27th October 2020
A Minimum Wage Floor in the Job Support Scheme
Minimum wage workers in workplaces forced to shut in very high virus areas will, from next week, be paid just two-thirds of the minimum wage under the Job Support Scheme.
For workers aged 25 and over, this will be as low as just £5.81 per hour, equivalent to the minimum wage level of 11 years ago. For younger workers it will be even less.
Many workers in businesses not forced to close also face being paid less than the minimum wage.
No-one should ever be expected to live on less than the minimum wage.
Without such a minimum wage floor to the Job Support Scheme during this pandemic many of our constituents will receive pay that is completely inadequate to meet even their basic needs. Even before the pandemic many of them were struggling to make ends meet because of low pay.
A high proportion of workers in the sectors hit hardest by this pandemic are paid the minimum wage, and many will already have lost a significant amount of their income as a result of this pandemic. The Government has a responsibility to ensure that this public health crisis does not become a social crisis for millions of people.
The introduction of the minimum wage was an important step forward in the campaign against low pay and that must not be undermined during this pandemic.
We ask you to urgently review this matter and introduce a minimum wage floor to financial support during this pandemic so no worker is paid less than the minimum wage.
Richard Burgon MP
Diane Abbott MP
Tahir Ali MP
Paula Barker MP
Apsana Begum MP
Olivia Blake MP
Ian Byrne MP
Jon Cruddas MP
Mary Foy MP
Margaret Greenwood MP
Rachel Hopkins MP
Kim Johnson MP
Ian Lavery MP
Clive Lewis MP
Tony Lloyd MP
Rebecca Long-Bailey MP
John McDonnell MP
Ian Mearns MP
Grahame Morris MP
Kate Osamor MP
Kate Osborne MP
Bell Ribeiro-Addy MP
Lloyd Russell-Moyle MP
Zarah Sultana MP
Jon Trickett MP
Claudia Webbe MP
Mick Whitley MP
Nadia Whittome MP
Beth Winter MP
Mohammad Yasin MP