AROUND ONE IN THREE (33 per cent) key workers earn less than £10 an hour, according to a new analysis by the TUC.

The analysis – published ahead of the new national living wage (NLW) and national minimum wage (NMW) rates coming into force today (1 April 2021) – reveals that around 3.2 million key workers are paid less than £10 an hour. This makes it harder to pay bills and put food on the table, says the TUC.

Key workers being paid less than £10 an hour include:

  • Retail workers: Three-quarters (75 per cent) of retail workers are paid less than £10 an hour. That’s around 1 million retail assistants, cashiers and shelf fillers.
  • Carers: More than three in five (62 per cent) (440,000) carers earn under £10 an hour.
  • Teaching assistants: Nearly seven in 10 (69 per cent) (340,000) teaching and education support assistants are paid less than £10 an hour.

The TUC argues that all key workers deserve a ‘decent’ pay rise as they have been expected to continue to work throughout lockdown and local restrictions, during the height of the pandemic.

The union body says that retail workers have been keeping essential shops going, often in conditions that do not allow for proper social distancing. Care workers have been looking after some of the most vulnerable and putting themselves at risk to do so.

Speaking on Wednesday 31 March, the TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Our shop assistants, carers and school support staff have worked around the clock to keep the country going through the pandemic – often at great personal risk to their health. But those expecting a decent pay increase tomorrow have been let down by the government’s decision to row back on the full rise they were promised. Ministers must get the minimum wage up to £10 an hour to stop millions of working people from living in poverty.”

In the spending review of November 2020, the Chancellor announced that he would freeze public sector pay this year. This follows a decade of pay freezes and caps. Public sector pay was frozen from 2011-13 and then capped at a one per cent annual increase until 2018. Last year the TUC warned that public sector key workers were being paid over £1,000 less today than a decade ago.

* Rates for the National Living Wage (for those aged 23 and over) and the National Minimum Wage are here.

* Source: Trades Union Congress