More than three-quarters of low-paid workers feel that this is the worst financial period they have ever faced, according to research by the Living Wage Foundation.
High inflation combined with low wages and below-inflation pay rises means many workers are forced to use food banks or avoid heating their homes due to the rising cost of living.
The Foundation found that 78% of workers who earn below its recommended ‘real’ Living Wage (£9.90 an hour outside London and £11.05 in the capital) report this to be the most difficult financial situation they have faced.
Over half of those surveyed (56%) have used food banks over the past 12 months, and 63% of those reporting using food banks said they had had to do so more often.
Almost half of those earning below the living wage (42%) said they were regularly skipping meals for financial reasons, and 32% said they could not heat their homes. Almost a quarter (24%) had taken out a pay-day loan to cover essentials – an increase of seven percentage points since January.
The cost of living crisis is taking its toll on low-paid workers’ mental health, too. Over two-thirds (69%) said low pay negatively affected their levels of anxiety and overall quality of life, up from 43% in January.
Cost of living
Women are more affected by this stress than men, with 75% of low-paid women reporting higher levels of anxiety, compared to 65% of low-paid men.
Fredlyne, a care worker surveyed by the Foundation, said her job gave her a “deep sense of fulfilment” but added that it was “hard to provide the level of care people deserve when you’re struggling to pay the bills and provide food for you and your family”.
Katherine Chapman, director of the Living Wage Foundation, said: “Everyone is feeling the pressure from soaring inflation, but our polling shows that low-paid workers are being hit harder than most with well over half using foodbanks in the last 12 months.
“These shocking findings bring to life what it’s like to be paid less than a real Living Wage during a cost-of-living-crisis. It’s more important than ever that those employers who can, step up and provide a wage based on the cost of living, joining over 11,000 Living Wage Employers across the UK.”
The Foundation will announce its new rates for the year 2022-23 next week, on 22 September. It brought forward the announcement from November in response to the unprecedented rise in living costs.
Its recommended voluntary rate, now paid by more than 10,000 employers, is higher than the government’s statutory national living wage, which is currently £9.50 an hour for workers aged 23 and over.