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COVID-19: Low-paid workers in UK more than twice as likely to lose job during pandemic

Abigail Fenton
·Writer
·2-min read
Low-paid workers in hospitality, among others, have seen the most losses. (CHUTTERSNAP/Unsplash)
Low-paid workers in hospitality, among others, have seen the most losses. Photo: CHUTTERSNAP/Unsplash

Low-paid workers in the UK more than twice as likely to lose their jobs and a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Two in three low-paid workers or four million people, are likely to be impacted by the current lockdown, compared to less than a third of higher earners, according to research by the Institute for Employment Studies (IES).

This includes those temporarily laid off and those who have seen their hours slashed and their incomes fall.

The report — based on findings from workshops and interviews with stakeholders involved in research, advocacy and public policy on low pay, as well as 40 low-paid — states that losses have been driven by falls in lower-paying jobs.

Watch: Should I pay off debt or save money during the coronavirus pandemic?

READ MORE: Young people increasingly in low-paid jobs, despite rising education

Theses are most notably food services and manufacturing; hospitality; and residential care and construction. However, even in sectors less affected by the coronavirus crisis, the lowest-paid have been hit the hardest, the study found.

The report argues that whole emergency financial support such as the furlough scheme and temporary increases in Universal Credit have provided a safety net for some, many low-paid workers have “slipper through the cracks”.

Many reported being denied furlough and having their hours cut — all while seeing their cost of living increase even as their incomes have fallen.

What's more, several low-paid workers claimed they have been forced or expected to work without adequate PPE during the ongoing pandemic.

READ MORE: Furlough pushed two million employees below the UK minimum wage

Previous research in November revealed low-paid workers were more than 20 times more likely to be furloughed or on reduced pay than workers who are not low-paid.

The report calls on the government to provide better support for low-paid workers during the pandemic and “to support full employment and decent jobs in the recovery.”

While the pandemic continues, IES is asking for “flexible furlough” to be extended until autumn; for increased emergency support through social security; and for a reform of statutory sick pay.

In addition, it has advised that the government “prioritise skills investment, labour market enforcement, local partnerships and employer engagement” in the recovery.

Watch: COVID-19 – Sunak urged to extend furlough scheme before budget