A report by KPMG has claimed that one in five UK workers is paid less than the living wage, which is the rate of pay designed to enable workers to afford a basic standard of living.

It suggested that 4.82 million UK workers receive less than the living wage which currently stands at £8.30 an hour in London and £7.20 in the rest of the UK, compared with the national minimum wage rate of £6.19 an hour.

The living wage is a voluntary rate of pay that some employers give their staff, and the KMPG study found that since 2001 it has positively impacted more than 10,000 employees and their families and redistributed more than £96m to some of the lowest paid UK workers.

Commenting on the findings, Marianne Fallon, Head of Corporate affairs at KPMG, said:

“Times are difficult for many people, but of course those on the lowest pay are suffering the most.

“Paying a Living Wage makes a huge difference to the individuals and their families and yet does not actually cost an employer much more.

“Tackling in-work poverty is also vital if we are to enable more people to improve their life prospects and increase social mobility in this country.”

The report also indicated that with 24% of people earning below the Living Wage, Northern Ireland has the highest proportion, followed by Wales at 23%.

The lowest levels of sub-living wage earners are in London and the South East of England, both at 16%, while in terms of numbers London and the North West of England are the most affected areas since both have 570,000 people earning below the living wage according to the report.

In regards to sectors of employers, workers in the hospitality industry are the worst affected, with 90% of bar staff and 85% of waiters and waitresses paid lower than the living wage.

The report also discovered that some 780,000 sales and retail assistants were not paid to Living Wage level, the highest total of any group of employees.

Frances O’Grady, the Incoming General Secretary of the TUC, said:

“It is shocking that in this day and age, one in five workers is still earning less than is needed to maintain a decent standard of living.

“The living wage is not a luxury, and means that low-paid workers do not have to make tough choices over whether they can afford the everyday things that most of us take for granted, such as their fuel bill or a winter coat for their children.

“Many more employers could afford to adopt the living wage, and we hope that many more decide to pay it in the coming months. Now more than ever is the time for employers to put an end to poverty pay.”

The first annual week-long celebration of the Living Wage and Living Wage Employers will take place from 4-10 November 2012, and in the build-up to this event, Rhys Moore, Director of the Living Wage Foundation, said:

“Paying a living wage makes a huge difference to the quality of life of thousands of cleaners, caterers and security staff across the country.

“It is really encouraging to see nearly 100 organisations now signed up and accredited. But that still leaves many more organisations that aren’t. We hope that Living Wage Week will create real momentum and that many more employers will sign up.”