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Thousands of key workers working on Christmas Day are earning less now in real terms than a decade ago, according to new analysis published by the TUC today (Thursday). 

The TUC looked at the jobs most likely to be working on 25 December and tracked their real wages over the last eleven years. The research found:  

·         Nurses’ real wages are down more than £2,700 per year 

·         Local government care workers are down more than £1,600 a year 

·         Chefs are down more than £1,050 per year 

The TUC says many of those on duty on Christmas Day this year on will be on low pay, especially in sectors like social care.  

After working on the frontline of the pandemic, too many key workers are at breaking point because of a mix of low pay, excessive workloads, and a lack of recognition, says the TUC. 

Support urgently needed for key workers  

The TUC is calling on the government to prioritise key worker pay in 2022, reversing a decade of lost pay. The union body says ministers must:  

·         Make sure all public service workers get a decent pay rise, through fully independent pay review bodies or collective bargaining, without restrictions being set by the chancellor. 

·         Fund the public sector so that all outsourced workers are paid at least the real Living Wage, or get pay parity with directly-employed staff doing the same job. 

·         Raise the national minimum wage to £10 per hour immediately.  

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: 

“Many of the key workers who are bracing themselves for another surge of Covid cases are earning less in real terms than they were a decade ago. That is not right.  

“While many of us are tucking into the turkey, thousands of key workers will be hard at work on the frontline, many of them dealing with staff shortages as a result of the Omicron variant. But their pay awards are falling way short of what they should be, especially in a cost-of-living crisis.  

“The pandemic must be a turning point. 2022 should be the year that the government finally gets wages rising across the UK. They can start by giving our public service workers a proper pay rise, and by raising the minimum wage to £10 an hour.” 


Editors note

Top 10 Christmas working occupations (latest figures, from 2018) 

Care workers and home carers 


Nursing auxiliaries and assistants 


Medical practitioners 

Waiters and waitresses 

Senior care workers 

Police officers (sergeant and below) 

Cleaners and domestics 

Kitchen and catering assistants 

Source: ONS 

Job title 

Real change  

% change  

Police officers (sergeant and below) 






Residential care worker (local government) 






Waiters and waitresses 



Doctors/Medical practitioners 



Nursing auxiliaries and assistants 



Cleaners and Domestics 



Kitchen and catering assistants 



Sources: TUC analysis of NHS pay rates, local government pay data, ONS ASHE 


·         Notes on analysis: 

·         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. 

·         For NHS workers 2021 wages are estimated using the 3% pay award recommended by the NHSPRB. The pay figures are for individual occupations at the top of agenda for change pay scale 

·         For local government, 2021 wages are estimated using the national employer’s pay offer of 1.75% 

·         About the TUC: 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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