One in five key workers (21 per cent) in the public sector are “actively considering” quitting and changing profession, according to new TUC polling published today (Thursday).
The polling, conducted by YouGov, reveals serious disillusionment among key workers in the public sector – with feeling undervalued, low pay and an excessive workload the most common reasons cited by workers for wanting to quit.
This year, the government awarded a three per cent pay rise to NHS staff and imposed a pay freeze (in real terms a pay cut) on most other public sector staff.
More than a quarter (27 per cent) of public sector key workers say that government policy on public sector pay has made them more likely to quit, according to the new polling – this rises to more than four in 10 (43 per cent) among those actively considering quitting.
Pointing to the findings, the TUC says the prime minister’s promise of a high wage economy is farcical while his government continues to hold down public sector pay. The union body adds that boosting key worker pay must be a priority in the upcoming spending review.
Pushed to the brink
The TUC has warned that a “toxic mix” of low pay, excessive workloads and a broader lack of recognition is pushing key workers in the public sector to the brink – with many at breaking point and on the verge of leaving their profession for good.
Of the one in five key workers in the public sector actively considering quitting:
For key workers in health and social care thinking about quitting, a huge seven in ten (68 per cent) say it is because they feel undervalued.
Almost half (46 per cent) of the key workers in education considering quitting cite low pay as a reason.
Two in five key workers in health and social care (40 per cent) and education (42 per cent) who are considering quitting say it is because of the strain of excessive work.
Even before the pandemic, there were 100,000 vacancies in the NHS and more than 112,000 in social care.
The union body says that these unfilled vacancies, on top of a decade of underfunding, has left public services “cut down to the bone” – placing huge amounts of pressure on public sector workers.
Pay rise “long overdue”
The TUC says a pay rise for public sector key workers is “long overdue”, as it publishes new analysis which shows how public sector pay has fallen in real terms across the board since 2010.
In the NHS:
In local government:
And for other public sector key workers:
Support urgently needed for key workers
The TUC is calling on the government to urgently prioritise key worker pay and public services funding in the forthcoming spending review. The union body says ministers must:
TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:
“Everyone deserves fair pay and dignity at work.
“But too many key workers in the public sector are at breaking point because of a toxic mix of low pay, excessive workloads and a serious lack of recognition.
“These are the nurses, care workers, and teachers that helped keep the country going through the pandemic.
“After years of our key workers being underpaid and our public services underfunded, this pandemic has to be a turning point.
“The prime minister’s promise of a high wage economy is nothing short of farcical while his government continues to hold down public sector pay.
“Enough is enough. Ministers must use the autumn spending review to end the public sector pay freeze and give all public sector workers a pay rise. And they must properly fund our public services too.”
-The YouGov survey polled 6,919 adults of which 1,364 were public sector workers. Fieldwork was undertaken between 4-7 October 2021. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).
- Pay data compares wages in 2010 and in 2021 and is adjusted for inflation using CPI – comparing 2010 wages in real terms today (if they had kept up with the cost of living) with 2021 wages.
- The Trades Union Congress (TUC) exists to make the working world a better place for everyone. We bring together the 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.
TUC press office
020 7467 1248
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