Lower earners more likely to work through lockdown

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People on lower incomes are more likely to be classified as key workers and continue to go to work during the lockdown than higher earners.

New Office for National Statistics figures which show how people spent their time from 28 March to 24 April 2020, when lockdown restrictions were at their tightest, revealed those with total household incomes in the bottom third for the UK worked a similar amount of time outside the home as they did in 2014 to 2015, despite increases in home working arrangements over the past few years.

Those with a household income of up to £1,700 a month increased their average time working from home by 3 hours and 2 minutes a week, while for those earning over £3,301 saw a 7 hours and 37 minutes rise in remote working per week.

The ONS said that those on lower incomes were more likely to go into work as they were more likely to be classified as key workers. Some 30.5% of employees in the bottom three income deciles (earning up to £1,450 per month) were considered key workers, while only 26.4% of employees in the top three income deciles (earning over £3,250 per month) were considered the same.

Employees in middle income households were more likely to be furloughed (15%), compared to 5% in lower income households and 6% of those with higher earnings.

However, workers across all categories had more free time for entertainment and rest and spent less time commuting, although this was more pronounced for those in higher income households. The average adult spent 1 hour and 6 minutes less per day either commuting or using transport.

“One of the rare positives to emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic based on this evidence is the fact that many people who remained in work during lockdown had a better work/life balance than five years ago,” said Peter Briffett, CEO of instant wage access provider Wagestream. “Many people have been required to commute far less, if at all, due to lockdown and so have had more time to spend with family and do non work-related activities.

“If Covid-19 is set to radically boost the number of people working from home then the overall work/life balance in the nation could improve exponentially in the years ahead.”

However, Briffet said it was unfortunate that lower earners had seen less of a change to their work/life balance than higher earners.

“All earners are equal when it comes to work/life balance, but higher earners are more equal than others,” he said.

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