During the first lockdown, there was a huge emphasis on recognising the contribution of the key workers keeping our country going. We had weekly claps and saw many individuals and organisations offering gifts and donations to those in the workforce. These demonstrations of appreciation felt powerful at the time and helped bring us together. But, they arguably aren’t enough to properly compensate key workers for the job they have been doing in difficult and dangerous circumstances.
It’s time for a salary increase for our key workers.
Actions, not words
Whilst the majority of us transitioned to home-based working, a huge number of people on the frontline had no choice but to continue working throughout the pandemic. Putting themselves, and their families, in harm’s way. I believe it’s time we properly remunerated them with much fairer pay and salary increases.
A vast majority of key workers are underpaid for the vital services they provide. We need to go further than words of support, by introducing a key worker minimum living wage across the UK. This is now equal to the current London living wage of £10.75.
This would see people properly paid for the important work they do. It could also encourage more people to see key worker roles as a viable career path.
Pay is key
As CEO of Manchester-based WorkerTech company Orka Works (we provide a platform for 50,000 hourly workers) we’ve been filling a lot of key worker roles in the cleaning and security sectors.
After witnessing first-hand the challenges in recruiting and sustaining the army of key workers that’s needed, we are certain that the pay structure needs to change.
There is a huge demand for labour currently, even in the middle of a pandemic. But many people simply won’t consider these roles with the current rates of pay.
Recognising difficult jobs
This change in pay structure will require us to formally recognise what roles should be classed as key workers, with the government collaborating with the relevant industries to make this happen and subsidise if necessary.
While certain public sector roles are in line for pay rises thanks to recently introduced Government spending, this will ignore thousands of key workers in the private sector working in cleaning jobs, supermarkets and delivery roles.
Effort should equal reward
Key jobs aren’t easy. Hours can be unsociable. The roles are rarely glamorous.
As we’ve found out these jobs are the building blocks of our economy and the people behind them need to be recognised and adequately rewarded.
This is more important than ever now. We have huge levels of unemployment and growing demand for key workers. We’ve seen this with the companies we work with. We should be encouraging people to enter these jobs and this requires us to make them more attractive through better pay.
A weekly clap is no longer enough. And arguably, it never was.