Consumer rights: 'I'm worried my daughter is being paid too little'

Months of job-hunting have produced a job that might pay lower than the minimum wage...Parents of a disabled child need help with allowances
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The Independent Online

Q. My daughter has just been offered a job, which is great as it's a year since she graduated and this is the first opportunity she's had.

However, I don't think she's being paid enough. Is £207 a week for a 40-hour week reasonable? Isn't there a minimum she should be paid? She doesn't want me to make a fuss as it's been so hard to find anything, but with just over £800 a month it will hardly cover travel and food.

FH, Glasgow

A. If your daughter is, as I suspect, 21 or 22, she should be earning the adult national minimum wage. At the minute that is £5.93 an hour (£6.08 from October). If by any chance she 18 to20, it's £4.92 an hour. The rule is the same no matter what size the firm.

If you do the calculation you'll see 40 hours on the minimum wage would be £237.20. Thirty-five hours a week at the minimum wage comes to just over £207. When she gets a written offer of the job and conditions of employment, it's likely to say she's required to work seven hours a day. If that's not the case and she really is £30 a week short, then she is being underpaid and the firm is breaking the law. You have to decide whether to ask for the extra, point out they're breaking the law, report them using the Pay and Work Rights helpline on 0800 917 2368, or – as your daughter wants – just keep quiet about it.

The law protects your daughter in that she should not be fired for demanding what is her legal right, shouldn't be bullied, victimised or discriminated against because she does so, and can take a case against her employer if any of those things happen. But the reality is that her boss could make her working life miserable, come up with other reasons to fire her, suddenly find her job has disappeared, and she'll be unemployed again.

The law says one thing but the reality is often very different. I suspect that's what your daughter means when she doesn't want you to make a fuss. See what the hours are, and if you need more help, call the helpline.

Q. I've been teaching for the past 15 years, but due to my home circumstances I resigned in March. We have three children and another on the way. Our middle one has a rare condition that means she can't walk unassisted or talk and needs constant care. I'm planning to do supply teaching and to tutor children from home, but so far there's been no supply work and I wondered whether we could get some financial help on top of the child benefit we get at the moment.

PE, Southampton

A. This is a complicated calculation given the nature of your working week. You should see an adviser who can go through your circumstances and help you to decide what you might be entitled to.

The first thing is disability living allowance for your disabled child. As she can't walk by herself and needs constant care and attention she may be able to claim. You could be entitled to child tax credits because you are working and have children, but that depends on the income you've had over the past tax year. It can be backdated for only three months so you should set that claim in motion straight away. Gather all your paperwork such as National Insurance number, payslips, P45 and P60 to take with you to the adviser.

Your child's main carer may be able to get a carer's allowance. It is payable to people who spend more than 35 hours a week caring for someone who is entitled to disability living allowance. Then there are other benefits which could help but which depend on the income coming into the house, such as housing benefit and council tax benefit.

If you find that you can't get work but are still looking for work, you may be entitled to some jobseeker's allowance (JSA). There are two elements to the benefit, one depending on what National Insurance contributions you've paid in the past and the other on your household income.

The problem for someone who isn't earning the same amount each week is that the system can be slow to react. If your income goes up, some of your benefits will be reduced and vice versa. You constantly have to update the various benefit departments as your circumstances change.

If you can get the constant, unchanging elements of your entitlements in place such as disability living allowance and carer's allowance, you can plan your household expenditure. When you are earning you'll need to plan for periods when you aren't earning and entitled to financial help but your benefits are still being processed.

You can get most of the advice you need through the Government's website, although you will have to register at the Job Centre for work-related benefits. However, there are so many potential elements to your claim that you should go through it all with a benefits adviser at your local Citizens Advice Bureau or a disability agency.

It might be worth asking a specialist disability agency if they know of any other help available for your child. As she has a rare condition there may be a special fund from a related charity. Even a one-off lump sum could make a difference.

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