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• On May Day, TUC calls for a pay rise for all key workers
• TUC outlines five ways the government can “really thank” frontline workers

There are almost 330,000 (329, 693) key workers across the South West earning less than £10 an hour, according to new TUC analysis published today (Friday).

Trade unionists around the country are marking May Day – also known as International Workers’ Day – with an online #ThankAWorker action, expressing gratitude to key workers who have made a difference to them during lockdown.

But the TUC believes that, as well as thanking workers, ministers must do more to improve their pay and conditions.

Underpaid and insecure

New TUC analysis, published today, reveals that nationally:

  • Nearly 4 in 10 key workers – an estimated 3.7 million people – are paid less than £10 an hour. This is a greater proportion that non-key workers (3 in 10).
  • Women are much more likely than men to be key workers and, when they are, are much more likely to be on low pay.
  • Of an estimated 9.8 million key workers, nearly two-thirds are women. And 2.5 million women key workers earn less than £10 an hour.
  • In social care, 7 in 10 workers earn less than £10 an hour.

Many key workers are also trapped in insecure work, without guaranteed hours and often missing out on basic rights like sick pay.

For example, 1 in 4 workers in adult social care – one of the sectors hit hardest by the virus – are on zero-hours contracts, which mean their hours of work and pay packets can vary significantly.

Recognising key workers’ contribution

In recognition of the contribution of key workers during this period, the TUC is calling on government to:

  1. Increase the minimum wage to £10 an hour for everyone now.
  2. Deliver fair pay rises for our key workers and rewards for workers across the economy that restore what they've lost through ten years of cuts and slow growth.
  3. Ban zero-hours contracts and stamp out false self-employment
  4. Increase sick pay to the real living wage and make sure everyone can get it from day one.
  5. Bring outsourced workers like cleaners in the NHS back into the public sector on public sector terms and conditions.

TUC Regional Secretary Nigel Costley said:

“Everyone who’s kept Britain going through this pandemic deserves a pay rise.

“Frontline workers are putting their own health on the line to look after the rest of us. They’re caring for our sick and vulnerable, getting us to work, keeping our shelves stocked and our vital services running.

“It’s time our key workers got a proper thank you. This means getting money into their pockets now.

“If ministers truly want to thank the people who got us through this crisis, they should give key workers the pay rise they deserve.

“We owe so much to them – now more than ever. The least the government should do is give them proper pay and better conditions.”

Editors note

- Details of the TUC’s #ThankAWorker social action are available here:

- Estimates of key worker earnings are based on the government’s list of key occupations and data from the most recent Labour Force Survey (Q4, 2019). The TUC’s analysis suggests there are up to 9.8 million key workers, and that 3.7 million are paid below £10 per hour. This is based on linking four-digit occupation codes to government guidance, which is open to interpretation.



Number of employees earning less than £10 per hour

% of employees earning less than £10 per hour

All (UK)




Key workers (UK)




Non-key workers (UK)





All Employees

No. of employees earning less than £10 ph

Number of key workers

Number of key workers earning under £10 ph

% of key workers paid below £10

South West




329, 693


- The Adult Social Care Workforce Data Set, published by Skills for Care, shows that 24 per cent of workers in adult social care sector are employed on zero-hours contracts:

- The Trades Union Congress (TUC) exists to make the working world a better place for everyone. We bring together more than 5.5 million working people who make up our 48 member unions. We support unions to grow and thrive, and we stand up for everyone who works for a living.

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