Thousands of key workers earning below Living Wage Foundation rates

Hospital cleaners, carers, shop workers all earn less than the fuondation's living wage rate

From Alex Homer  

BBC Local News partnerships

More than a quarter of the workforce in Thanet – including thousands of key workers considered critical to the UK’s response to the coronavirus crisis – are earning below the so-called “real living wage”, data suggests.

The real living wage is a voluntary scheme devised by the Living Wage Foundation.  It is calculated independently from the government and is based on costs such as food, clothing and household bills.

One in five UK employees earn below the Living Wage Foundation rates, including hundreds of thousands of key workers including hospital cleaners and porters, teaching assistants and carers.

In Thanet some 25.8% of workers – around 10,000- – fall below the Living Wage rates which are currently £10.75 an hour for those working within London and £9.30 an hour for those working in the UK outside London.

The scheme is separate to the statutory National Living Wage, which is the legally-binding hourly rate for workers aged 25 and over. It is reviewed every year just like the National Minimum Wage (for under 25s).

The government raised the National Living Wage to £8.72 an hour from 1 April.

The GMB union said the coronavirus crisis had shone a light on the “rock-bottom pay” of the people “expected to risk their health to protect us”. It says more than three million workers could be affected and called for key workers’ wages to be raised.

Economists have, however, urged against further wage rises before the full toll of the crisis is clear.  The Low Pay Commission, an independent body which advises the government, warned it might be necessary to apply an “emergency brake” on long-term plans to continue to lift the statutory minimum.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said: “It is right we ensure the lowest paid are fairly rewarded for their contribution to the economy, particularly those working in essential services during the biggest threat this country has faced in decades.

“This year’s increase to the National Living Wage means we will be putting an extra £930 a year into the pockets of 2.4 million of the UK’s lowest paid workers.”

Katherine Chapman, Director of the Living Wage Foundation, said: “”It’s incredibly important that key workers are paid a real Living Wage. These are the hospital cleaners, the shelf-stackers and the carers who are putting their health on the line to keep us safe, and to keep our economy and society running.

“Almost two-thirds of cleaners and domestic workers, and over a third of care workers and in-home carers currently earn less than the real Living Wage. For those employers that can afford to do so, it is important that they continue to support workers with a Living Wage. We know Living Wage businesses are robust and resilient, and it is these employers that will emerge from this crisis stronger.”


  1. There we have it. The conservative mantra is work hard and you’ll get ahead. In fact, sit on your bum moving other people’s money around will make you rich, work hard in any essential services and you’ll be very poor indeed. And who do you want around now? Some hedge fund billionaire or someone looking after your loved ones. Make sure that when we’re through all this that the right people are rewarded and the wrong’uns get their comeuppance.

    • I signed the petition , too.

      We need to radically rejig the wage structure in this country. This virus is revealing who is REALLY useful to us all , and who is mere entertainment or who is sitting on top of the pile sucking the wealth into their offshore bank accounts.

      We need health staff including porters and cleaners. We need supermarket workers , shelf stackers, drivers and farm workers.(Not just the farmers/landowners.We need the thousands of people who actually pick the spuds and the strawberries).We need bin men and posties.

      Do we NEED City of London speculators, or hedge-fund managers, or business owners who live on remote yachts or islands? Yet they absorb huge amounts of the money we create.
      Let’s get talking NOW about what kind of society we want to live in if we survive the virus,and the next virus.

  2. We have a system that revolves around in work benefits for the low paid, so the numbers quoted mean nothing without knowing the total income those involved. Where workers are employed by the state it would be much better to pay everything ( hourly rate and benefits ) as the overall salary, so for example those in the nhs would show how much is spent overall employing them ,which would also show an increase in spending by the state on the nhs.
    An economy built around subsidising families that work half a week is never going to function properly and whilst in theory its a good idea as with all such ideas its gone too far and far too many people/jobs function in this manner.

  3. This is from the Observer 20/10/19 “The majority of firms with state contracts are not paying fair tax”. In fact many of them are salting our money away in off shore tax havens! Can anyone name one previous Public Service that has been privatised, and is efficient, and works for the public good? No, of course not, because the privatised companies now doing this work, do it for profit, and not for the public good! Will the Tories continue to break up the NHS after this present fiasco? Did you know that there is now NO emergency Dental surgery carried out at the QEQM? I found this out the hard way, after developing a screaming tooth ache recently, and if you are deemed to need an extraction, and most don’t according to their criteria, the you will be referred to Ashford William Harvey!!

  4. Everything was sold off by the state leaders for greed because by doing so they were making themselves loads of money. Those leeches ruined our once great country. Everything has risen in price since on a daily basis so We need to re-nationalise those companies once again so they work for the people using them and not the elite fat cats that do not pay fair tax in the UK. Inflation was never this bad. House prices and rents have risen out of this world so half the nation cannot afford anywhere to live. So many more people are living in poverty and on charity today at the same time so many more are filthy rich. We need to equal this out somewhat.

Comments are closed.