The TUC has called for an urgent “economic reset” after its research confirmed that low-paid workers bore the brunt of the pandemic.
A poll conducted for the union body by Britain Thinks found that those earning less than £15,000 were almost twice as likely as high-paid workers (with salaries over £50,000) to have cut back on spending since the start of the pandemic.
High earners were more than three times more likely to expect a pay rise in the next 12 months, with 37% saying this was the case, compared to 12% of lower earners.
The TUC has called this the “tale of two pandemics”, with lower paid workers also less likely to be granted full pay when off sick and more likely to be under threat from redundancy.
Low-paid workers are four times more likely than high-paid workers to say they cannot afford to take time off work when sick (24% compared to 6%), while only a third of low-paid workers get full pay when off sick compared to 80% of higher-paid workers.
Low-paid workers are also more than three times more likely than high-paid workers to have to work outside the home (74% compared to 20%), putting them at higher risk of contracting coronavirus.
TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Everyone deserves dignity at work and a job they can build a life on. But too many working people – often key workers – are struggling to pay the bills and put food on the table.
“It has been a tale of two pandemics. This Covid class divide has seen low-paid workers bear the brunt of the pandemic, while the better off have enjoyed greater financial security, often getting richer.
“This should be a wake up call – we need an economic reset. It’s time for a new age of dignity and security at work.”
Terms of employment
The TUC cited figures from the Office for National Statistics showing that the industries most impacted by the pandemic were also the most likely to be low-paid sectors, including the arts, hospitality and food.
The union has called for the government in the short term to extend the furlough scheme to protect more jobs and cancel its planned removal of the £20 Universal Credit top up.
Looking further ahead, it wants ministers to ban zero hours contracts, raise the minimum wage to at least £10 per hour, increase statutory sick pay so it reflects the real Living Wage, and to introduce better bargaining rights for employees and their unions.
O’Grady added that the government risked repeating the “same old mistakes” of the past decade, meaning that insecure work would spiral further.
“The imminent end to the furlough scheme and cut to Universal Credit this autumn will be a hammer blow for low-paid workers and could plunge millions into hardship, many of whom are already teetering on the edge,” she said.
“The government must reverse its senseless decision to cut Universal Credit and extend the furlough scheme for as long as is needed to protect jobs and livelihoods.”