A third of women earning below the voluntary living wage have no savings and most worry about their finances, a new survey reveals.

Research among 1,000 female workers found that two out of five have more than £500 of debt, with one in four spending over £100 a month servicing their debt.

The Living Wage Foundation and the Fawcett Society said their findings revealed that three out of five working women only have enough savings to last a month if they lost their job.

Tess Lanning, director of the Living Wage Foundation, which sets the voluntary living wage, said: “The precariousness of life for women earning little more than the government minimum shows the need for more employers to take a stand by paying the real living wage based on what people need to make ends meet. Our research shows that debt and financial insecurity is widespread for low-paid women, with many struggling to save for a rainy day.”

Jemima Olchawski, of the Fawcett Society, said: “Women are much more likely to be in low paid work. Often that might be because they need flexibility or part-time work to meet caring responsibilities that they just can’t find in better paid roles. It’s also because society undervalues women and the work they do; jobs dominated by women such as caring roles are consistently amongst the lowest paid.

“Employers can help lift their staff out of poverty and close the gender pay gap by paying the real living wage. To maximise the talent available to them recruiters should make all jobs flexible by default, so a wider range of people can progress at work. We’d urge larger employers to take the opportunity of pay gap reporting to look closely at the nature and causes of the gap in their organisation and make an action plan to close it.”

The voluntary wage is £8.75 an hour outside of London and £10.20 in the capital, compared with the Government’s national living wage of £7.50 for over 25-year-olds.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Women are bearing the brunt of in-work poverty. Millions are trapped in low-paid jobs that offer no financial security.

“Working women shouldn’t have to worry about covering the basics. But many are struggling to keep up with bills and don’t even have the savings to fix a broken boiler.

“This polling shows that extending the real living wage is vital. There’s no excuse for employers not investing in staff.”