More than 40% of school kitchen staff 'in debt due to low pay'

By agency reporter
January 15, 2018

Four in 10 (41 per cent) of school kitchen staff are worried about their pay, with one in five (21 per cent) earning the minimum wage, a new UNISON survey has revealed.

The survey of more than 1,200 school catering employees found that four in ten (43 per cent) say they are weighed down with debt (other than a mortgage). A quarter (25 per cent) of the staff responding say they have had to take out loans from banks, credit unions or payday loan companies simply to make ends meet. One in five (21 per cent) have had no choice but to borrow money from friends and family.

At the same time, almost half the respondents (46 per cent) said that it’s impossible to do their jobs within their allocated hours. A third of kitchen staff (33 per cent) regularly do between two and five hours of unpaid overtime every week to keep their school’s kitchens operational. Almost one in ten (nine per cent) school catering staff regularly work five or more hours unpaid.

Stress also has a significant impact on the catering employees, with one in four saying they feel stressed all or most of the time. One fifth (20 per cent) of kitchen staff say they’ve had to take on a second job to try to cover their monthly outgoings.

The lack of training and the feeling that kitchen staff are not seen as a valued part of the school team were also cited as issues that troubled them. One third (33 per cent) say they’ve not received any training in the past year, and 35 per cent of respondents felt excluded as a member of the school as a whole.

UNISON national officer for education and children’s services Ruth Levin said, “It’s disgraceful that some of the lowest paid employees in our education system are doing hours of unpaid overtime every week just to keep our school kitchens running and the nation’s school children fed.

“Many school kitchen staff said they were the main breadwinners for their families and have fallen into debt as the result of the freeze on their already low wages. As a country attempting to tackle the growing childhood obesity crisis, it’s imperative the government and head teachers place a greater value on their role in keeping children healthy.

“UNISON is calling on all employers to provide both fair pay and ample training to all school kitchen staff.”



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