Government excludes care workers from visa plans as research highlights low paid are most at risk from Covid-19

Lower paid workers are already much more likely to have lost jobs during the coronavirus pandemic, according to new analysis, which comes as Government plans for fast-track visas are shown to exclude care workers.

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NHS leaders have expressed concern over the Government’s plans on fast-track ‘health and care’ visas which appear to exclude care workers, as new research shows low paid workers are bearing the brunt of the Covid-19 crisis.

The Government today announced further details on the UK’s points-based immigration system after Brexit. The announcement drew concerns from care sector workers due to the exclusion of care workers. Danny Mortimer, chief executive of NHS Employers, which is part of the NHS Confederation, said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has shown more than ever the vital contribution social care workers make to our society, so while the Government’s new health and care visa will be welcome, it will exclude an essential part of the workforce.

“We are facing the risk of a staffing blackhole in social care, with one in five health and care workers having said they are likely to leave their roles after the pandemic. A solution is urgently needed.

“It is critical that the Government ensures a transitional solution is in place for social care that supports international recruitment from January 2021 to navigate the gap between the introduction of the new immigration system and a longer term plan and funding settlement for social care in England.”

The Women’s Budget Group has been calling for a care-led recovery in line with the UK’s ageing population, the acute skills shortages in the care sector, in large part due to low wages and job insecurity, and recognition of their key role in facing up to Covid-19. They are critical of the Government’s recovery plan which focuses mainly on creating jobs in the heavily male-dominated construction sector.

Meanwhile, analysis from the Institute for Employment Studies [IES] shows the low paid have borne the brunt of the Covid-19 economic hit. It shows employment has already fallen significantly for those in low paid jobs – down by four percentage points between February and April – equivalent to a fall of 140,000.  Employment for those in higher paying jobs, however, is unchanged between February and April.  This fall is in spite of the measures put in place to protect jobs (the Job Retention Scheme and Self-Employment Income Support Scheme), suggesting that there is a sizeable group of low income workers missing out on support, says the IES.

It says the drop in employment is likely to reflect both the occupations that low paid workers are in, but also their often more precarious employment conditions – with the research finding that low paid workers are two thirds more likely to be in temporary work, three times more likely to be part time and nearly five times more likely to be on zero hours contracts than higher paid workers.

Low paid workers are significantly more likely to report having been temporarily laid off or had their hours reduced due to the crisis – with two fifths of those working fewer hours in April reporting that this is due to the economy (compared with one third for higher paid workers).

One in eleven low paid workers are looking for a new or additional job – double the rate for those in higher paid jobs, and equivalent to 400,000 low paid workers looking for new work, says the IES.

IES Director Tony Wilson says: “This analysis suggests that many low paid workers may have already slipped through the cracks during the crisis – with employment falling significantly during April, while it held up for other groups.  This reflects the often precarious nature of low paid work – with workers two thirds more likely to be in temporary work and nearly five times more likely to be on zero hours contracts than the higher paid.  So while the government’s plan for jobs is welcome, it needs also to address job security and precarious work.  And with nearly one in 10 low paid workers looking for a new job, we must ensure that those in work are getting the help they need to find a better job.”


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