26th May 2020

72% of people think care workers are underpaid
Three in four people support carers getting the Real Living Wage
65% of people agree with a rise in income tax to fund giving care workers a pay rise

New survey data published today by The Fawcett Society, the gender equality campaigning charity, finds that the public overwhelmingly want carers to be better paid and better valued. This includes strong support amongst Conservative voters, with 7 in 10 saying they support a rise in income tax to fund a pay rise.

The research comes in the week of the 50th anniversary of the Equal Pay Act 1970, which gave women the legal right to equal pay. Eight out of ten care workers are women, and the sector is characterised by low pay with many paid at just minimum wage levels. Work being done by women is still consistently being undervalued.

The Savanta ComRes poll finds that by a margin of two to one, people disagree that the government prioritised care homes enough at the start of the pandemic, with 48% disagreeing and only 26% agreeing.

A large majority agree that care workers are underpaid for the work they do (72%). The research reveals a revolt against the poor pay and conditions care workers face:

  • Three quarters (76%) say they should get paid at least the living wage of £9.30 per hour (£10.75 in London) for their work, rising to 9 out of 10 Conservative-voting women (88%)
  • Eight out of ten (79%) agree that they should be entitled to decent terms and conditions
  • Seven out of ten (69%) say that those who help people in their homes should get paid for travel between their appointments.

Many low-paid care workers will be among the 1.2 million women who are not eligible for Statutory Sick Pay due to their earnings. Our poll shows that the public overwhelmingly thinks that every worker should be able to access sick pay during the pandemic, with 77% agreeing.

Vitally, a significant majority – 65% - of people support an increase in income tax to fund giving care workers a pay rise. Only 11% disagree. Support for this rises to 7 in 10 amongst Conservative voters (68%). An even greater proportion of the public, 74%, want to see care for the elderly and disabled protected from any funding cuts.

The Fawcett Society, which played a key role in the 2016 PSA Commission on Care, is making three calls on the anniversary of the Equal Pay Act for care work to be valued:

  • Increase social care workers’ wages across the board, with the Real Living Wage as a minimum.
  • Reform and invest in the social care sector, and protect social care budgets from any future funding cuts.
  • Improve care workers’ terms and conditions: provide adequate PPE, end 15-minute visits and zero-hours contracts, pay for travel time, and give all workers entitlement to statutory sick pay.

It is not only care workers that the public value more – seven out of ten (68%) said that they appreciate key workers in general more following the pandemic. Three quarters (75%) support all key workers being paid a minimum of the Real Living Wage.

Sam Smethers, Fawcett Society Chief Executive, said:

“This crisis has revealed how much we rely on frontline workers, particularly low paid care workers, yet how poorly they are treated.  The truth is Government did not prioritise the care sector at the start and the public are clear on that. This must change. As a minimum it is time to properly protect them, give them decent terms and conditions and start paying them a living wage.

“Fifty years on from the Equal Pay Act it is time to go to the heart of why women are still undervalued, and that is because we do not value care work, whether it is paid or unpaid. The Chancellor could give care workers a pay rise tomorrow if he chose to and our poll shows that the wider public, including the vast majority of Conservative voters, would support it.”

Mary-Ann Stephenson, Director of the Women’s Budget Group, added:

“More care workers are dying due to Covid-19 than in any other occupational category. For too long this work has been underpaid and undervalued. Over 80% of care workers are women, a quarter are on zero hours contracts. Many will not even qualify for statutory sick pay if they become ill.

These figures show that there is strong public support for these vitally important jobs to be properly valued and properly paid. The Covid19 crisis has exposed the serious flaws in our system but it also shows that we can and must do things differently.”

Download the full press release here.
Find out more about our #ValueCare campaign.