Key workers to earn less on Christmas Day 2021 than a decade ago, TUC reveals

Elliot Chappell
© IVASHstudio/

New analysis from the TUC has revealed that thousands of key workers, including those working to combat the surge in Covid cases over the festive period, will earn less on Christmas Day this year than they did a decade ago.

The trade union federation has tracked the wages of those most likely to be working on Christmas Day for the past 11 years. According to the latest analysis, the real-term annual wages of nurses are down £2,700, while local government workers and chefs will receive £1,600 and £1,050 less, respectively.

Reacting to the findings, 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 analysis of Office National Statistics data found that police officers receive £5,959 less annually, in real terms, than 11 years ago. Waiters are paid £859 less, medical practitioners £779 and nursing auxiliaries and assistants £719.

O’Grady argued that the pandemic must be a “turning point” and 2022 should be the year that the government “finally gets wages rising across the UK”. She urged ministers to start by giving public sector workers a “proper pay rise” and raising the minimum wage to £10 an hour.

The TUC research released today compared wages in 2010 and 2021, adjusting for inflation (using the Consumer Price Index) to give an effective comparison of the real-terms difference between earnings over the past decade.

For 2021 NHS employee wages, researchers estimated using the 3% pay award recommended by the NHS Pay Review Body earlier this year. Local government earnings were estimated using the national employer’s pay offer of 1.75%.

The analysis comes amid rising Covid cases across the UK. The surge in infections has been fuelled by the spread of the Omicron variant, which has been found to multiply 70 times faster than the original and Delta strains of the virus.

The World Health Organisation’s Hans Kluge told a press conference in Vienna on Tuesday that Omicron is now the dominant strain in a number of countries, including the UK. He added that Omicron cases were found largely among people in their 20s and 30s and in large cities.

The WHO European chief warned of a “significant surge” in Covid cases as Omicron spreads. Countries across Europe, including Germany, Portugal and France, have introduced further public health measures.

According to the UK Health Security Agency on Wednesday this week, people contracting the Omicron variant are more likely to experience milder symptoms than previous strains. It also warned, however, that the illness is not necessarily mild enough to avoid large numbers of hospitalisations.

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