Almost three-quarters of frontline care workers - 600,000 - in England are earning below the “real” living wage, which experts say is the bare minimum to allow families basics such as a secondhand car and a week’s annual UK self-catering holiday, research has revealed.
The proportion of care workers below the threshold is even higher in northern areas, where care homes have been hit hardest by Covid-19. In the north-east, 82% of care staff earned less than the England-wide real living wage of £9.50 per hour, while the proportion was 78% in the north-west.
The figures were calculated by the Living Wage Foundation. The real living wage is calculated based on public consultation about necessities and analysis of the cost of living. It differs from the statutory national living wage which is currently £8.72 per hour for people aged 25 and over. In London only 10% of care workers earn more than £10.85 per hour, which is the threshold in the capital adjusted for the higher cost of housing and transport.
“They’ve put their lives on the line caring for others during this pandemic, so it’s essential we ensure they earn enough to look after their own families,” said Laura Gardiner, the director of the Living Wage Foundation. “The real living wage is the only UK wage rate based on what it costs to live. It ensures workers and their families can meet everyday needs – things like a surprise dentist trip and a new school uniform for growing kids.”
“There’s overwhelming public support for a pay rise for care staff,” said Christina McAnea, the assistant general secretary of Unison, a trade union which represents care workers. “These workers do a skilled job looking after the elderly and disabled people. But many struggle on poverty wages despite their dedication during the pandemic.”