The Pay Advisory Committee yesterday recommended a formula that could extend the low-wage exemption to President Carter's anti-inflation guideline to at least a third of the nation's work force.

The committee proposed the exemption be extended to any worker in an employe unit with average straight-time hourly earnings below $5.35.

Committee officials had no estimate of how many workers would be exempt from the wage guideline program, but the proposed standard would exempt at least one third and probably more of the total civilian work force.

In addition to the new low-wage exemption, the committee, which includes labor, business and public representatives, recommended the present exemption of any individual making less than $4 an hour also be continued.

As of October, according to Labor Department data, 28.6 percent of more than 60 million employes covered in one survey worked in business establishments whose average hourly pay was less than the $5.35 cutoff.

The new approach was taken partly because of sharp disagreement between the business and labor members over a new figure that would have applied to individual workers.

The committee's recommendations are expected to be implemented by the Council on Wage and Price Stability without change.

Committee Chairman John T. Dunlop also proposed to the committee yesterday that it "propose voluntary general principles for responsible collective bargaining and responsible wage salary and fringe benefit determination appropriate to the economic environment expected to prevail over the longer term ahead."

But until those broader principles can be agreed upon. Dunlop suggested for the second year of the pay and price standards program that "a general pay standard . . . should be established to constitute a numerical range to be self-administered. A set of criteria should be recommended for decisions respecting wages and salaries within the range," he said.

Dunlop noted there was an "enormous dispersion" to actual first-year wage increases under major collective bargaining agreements signed in 1978 and the first nine months of 1979. Labor Department data for the first nine months of this year show that, not counting cost-or-living escalator provisions, 25 percent of the 2.6 million workers covered got less than a 6 percent increase. Another 19 percent of the workers got between 6 percent and 8 percent raises, while another 31 percent received between 8 percent and 10 percent increases. The remaining 20 percent of workers covered by settlements involving 1,000 employees or more received wage increases of more than 10 percent.