Theresa May has faced fresh calls to end the 1% public sector cap as Jeremy Corbyn warned that "warm words do not pay food bills".
Labour leader Mr Corbyn told the Prime Minister to "see sense" by scrapping the cap, amid mounting speculation that Mrs May is preparing to end the long-standing policy.
Mrs May also sidestepped demands from Mr Corbyn to condemn McDonald's and Sports Direct for how they treat staff in terms of pay and contracts.
The exchanges came in the first Prime Minister's Questions since the summer recess.
Mr Corbyn also pressed the PM to "categorically state" there will be no rises in the basic rate of income tax, national insurance contributions or VAT in a bid to protect those who are struggling to get by.
Mrs May pointed to the Government's record on help provided to people who are "just about managing", although she failed to offer an assurance in response to Mr Corbyn's question.
There was no mention of Brexit in the exchanges between the two leaders, with both seemingly happier to focus on issues affecting workers.
Mr Corbyn told the PM: "Today, thousands of nursing and other healthcare staff are outside Parliament. They're demanding this Government scraps the 1% pay cap.
"Poor pay means experienced staff are leaving and fewer people are training to become nurses.
"There's already a shortage of 40,000 nurses across the UK. Will the Prime Minister please see sense and end the public sector pay cap and ensure our NHS staff are properly paid?"
Mrs May replied: "We absolutely value the work of all those public sector nurses, teachers and others who are doing a good job for us day in and day out in often what are very difficult and harrowing circumstances."
The PM noted two pay review body reports for police and prison officers are still to be published and will receive a Government response in 2017/18.
She said: "Later in the autumn we will publish the framework for 2018/19 and we'll continue to balance the need to protect jobs, the need to protect public sector workers and the need to ensure we're also protecting and being fair to those who are paying for it - including public sector workers."