Many low paid, mainly female public service workers in Wales, including school support staff, have been left hundreds of pounds worse off because of the costs of working from home, according to UNISON Cymru Wales.

The public services union has today (Friday), released survey data showing 9 in 10 of these workers have not been reimbursed for extra costs incurred by their employer.

UNISON wants Welsh government to ensure no public service worker suffers detriment with the new ways of working and it has called for the £500 Covid thank you bonus, paid to care workers and NHS workers, to be extended to all council workers.

Public service workers told to work from home, have met the costs of additional heating and electricity, telephone and broadband, home adaptation, and increased home insurance.

UNISON’s survey of 738 public service workers found: –

  • 95 per cent have not been offered a reimbursement for the extra costs they have incurred from working from home by their employer
  • 85 per cent are not paid a home-working allowance (employers are able to pay a tax-free allowance up to £6 per week)
  • 6 per cent earned too little to qualify for any tax relief for home working

Alison Boshier, UNISON Ceredigion branch secretary and school support worker said,

“I’m a low paid school worker and when the lockdown hit, my husband had to isolate and couldn’t do overtime which we rely on to make ends meet. It was particularly tough financially through those winter months. There are thousands of people in the same position as us in Wales.

“I had to work from home all day and when it was cold, that meant keeping the heating on all day. When we ran out of oil, we had to use electric bar heaters which are even more expensive.

“It’s insulting that my husband and I had to make choices about whether we could afford to be warm. It’s summer now but the internet and lights are still on all day. There are so many hidden expenses which employers are not accounting for or compensating their low paid workers, many of whom are part-time. I had calls from so many teaching assistants with young families telling me they’re not coping financially.”

Lianne Dallimore, chair of UNISON Cymru Wales local government committee, said,

“The pandemic and lockdown haven’t affected everyone equally. Many of those who are low paid and working from home have been left struggling to survive.

“These people include public service workers who kept vital community services running throughout lockdown and ensured virtual learning could continue for school children. You can’t question their dedication, yet UNISON has received reports from across Wales these same workers are hundreds of pounds worse off because of home working.

“The Covid bonus of £500 should be extended to all council workers who played their part serving their community during lockdown, including school staff, refuse workers, meals on wheels service and many more.”