What are the worst paying jobs in the UK?

What are the worst paying jobs in the UK?
July 17, 2018 Felicity Anderson

What are the worst paying jobs in the UK?

The average person in the UK earns £27,000 a year, however, those in the worst paying jobs earn well below this, frequently taking home just the hourly minimum wage and sometimes even less.

Low pay, combined with the prevalence of zero hours contracts, and the ever-increasing cost of living, means that many workers in the lowest paid jobs often feel financially squeezed, despite working hard and performing essential services.

Here Cashlady looks at the worst paying jobs in the UK, including care workers, retail assistants, and cleaners.

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The worst paying jobs in the UK

Low pay in the UK has been making the news recently, with worrying figures from the Low Pay Commission this week highlighting that up to 580,00 workers are receiving less than minimum wage.

Many of these workers are in some of the worst paying jobs listed below, with average salary information provided by the Office of National Statistics.

Waiters and waitresses

Expected to be friendly and professional to customers, while working long unsociable hours, waiters and waitresses are frequently at the top of the list of the lowest paid workers in the UK.

Often on zero hours contracts, which provide welcome flexibility for some, and financial uncertainty for others, salaries average at around £7,554 but can be supplemented with customer tips and working extra shifts.

Bar staff

Also among the lowest paid workers in the country, bar staff, responsible for mixing cocktails, pouring drinks, handling money and keeping the fridge stocked up, are paid even less than waiting staff, earning an average salary of £7,404.

Bar supervisors and managers typically earn more, and like waiting staff may supplement their income with tips.


What are the worst paying jobs in the UK?

Scrubbing and brushing is labour intensive work and yet both domestic and commercial cleaners are paid an average salary of just £7,919 per year.

Many cleaners are self-employed or employed by cleaning companies and benefit from the ability to work part-time, with flexible hours, which may fir around childcare or other responsibilities.

There are usually no formal qualifications required, although knowledge and experience of cleaning is important, along with good customer service skills, willingness to take criticism, reliability, honesty and high energy levels.

Hairdressers and barbers

Despite the level of skill and training involved in cutting and styling hair, hairdressers and barbers earn an average salary of just £10, 101.

Senior stylists can earn significantly more, particularly those working in upmarket salons, plus hairdressers and barbers at all levels are frequently given tips from satisfied customers.

Retail assistants

Another job that is useful for young people and student’s due to seasonal opportunities and flexible shift patterns, retail assistants earn an average salary of £10, 296 per year.

A customer service focused position, retail assistants must provide a helpful customer service experience and attempt to make sales.

Retail merchandisers, meanwhile, responsible for marketing their products in-store or online, earn significantly more, with a higher average salary of £14,738.

Nursery assistants

Tasked with the important job of looking after children, while adhering to strict guidelines, nursery assistants are also among the lowest paid workers in the UK.

There are no set entry requirements for this role, however, employers may ask for, or provide on the job training for childcare qualifications, such as NVQ or BTEC.

Typically, private nurseries pay less, with councils often paying higher salaries and offering more stable working conditions.


Answering the phones, welcoming visitors and performing light admin duties, such as processing mail, provides receptionists with one of the worst salaries in the UK, at an average of just £12,543.

Those with specialist qualifications, such as an NVQ/SVQ in Business and Administration, or a second language may earn more, and with experience, senior receptionists can earn up to £25,000

Care workers

Helping young, elderly and vulnerable people to manage their daily activities is an important job and yet it ranks among the lowest paying UK jobs, with an average salary of £12,650.

Based in a residential home, day centre, care home, or helping people in their own homes, care workers perform a wide variety of duties including helping with personal care, such as washing, preparing food, providing emotional support and carrying out general tasks, like housework, shopping, and laundry.

Highly experienced care workers, such as Senior Care Supervisors can earn up to £25,000 with the right training and experience.