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Call for key workers to be compensated

The government should compensate all key workers for their contribution during the Covid-19 pandemic and consult on fairer minimum standards, according to a new report. 

The report by the Centre for Progressive Policy – Pay, productivity and social value: why key workers deserve a better deal – warns that while some key workers are well paid or well represented by trade unions, others are suffering under insecure job contracts and poor enforcement of minimum wage standards.

It also argues that the key workers at highest risk are among the lowest paid. Care workers’ hourly earnings are nearly 30% below the median, and a third are employed on zero-hours contracts.

Meanwhile, the death rate of home care and care workers has been over three times higher than the average working person during the pandemic.

CPP argued that society should acknowledge the vital work done by these people in offering a one-off compensation payment in recognition of the personal risks they have taken.

Respecting and properly renumerating key workers remains essential beyond the pandemic. The demand for social care, in particular, is already high and is increasing in deprived areas in the UK; paying care workers a fair wage would both improve care outcomes and contribute to the levelling up agenda.

Rosie Stock Jones, senior research analyst, Centre for Progressive Policy, said: ‘Key workers have been invaluable to society over the past year, with many taking huge personal risk whilst the rest of us stay home – yet these workers are often low paid, with many on insecure contracts.

‘This discrepancy between social and ‘market’ value must be rectified, and there is widespread public support for this. CPP calls on government bodies to work together to ensure that the pay and working conditions reflect the contribution key workers make to society, starting with compensation for the risks taken during the pandemic.’

CPP is calling on the government to remunerate key workers for risks taken throughout the pandemic and to ensure all key workers receive a fair wage relative to their social value by:

  • Making all key workers eligible to apply to HMRC for a tax-free coronavirus compensation payment of between £200 and £1,200 at the March Budget at an estimated cost of £1.5bn – £4bn.
  • Consulting on developing sector specific, minimum pay and employment conditions that better reflect the social value and risk associated with key worker roles.
  • Funding local councils to pay all publicly funded care workers the real living wage as a minimum.
  • Building social care up as a profession by developing nationally agreed skills and competencies frameworks and providing progression pathways.

Laura Gardiner, director, Living Wage Foundation, said: ‘In these difficult times, it is more important than ever that those who are continuing to risk their health and wellbeing to keep our economy going are paid what they need to live.

‘Key workers are providing a crucial service in supporting and caring for the vulnerable and their families. As a society, we have a responsibility to go beyond the clapping, and to compensate these key workers fairly for their contribution.

‘Paying the real Living Wage is not only the right thing to do, but is also beneficial financially for firms, a fair wage increases motivation and productivity.

‘And in sectors like social care where wages are driven by public spending, we need to move beyond words of appreciation – policy makers should commit to a Living Wage for care workers and increase funding for the sector accordingly.’

Photo Credit – Pixabay

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