UK’s Christmas workers earning less than 10 years ago, study shows

Many of those working on Christmas Day, including members of the clergy and the emergency services, will be paid less than a decade ago, with little sign that the earnings squeeze will fade in the new year, according to analysis.

Real wages for the most-worked jobs on 25 December, barring kitchen staff, have fallen since 2007 due to rising inflation and meagre increases in pay, a TUC study has found.

The unions’ umbrella group found doctors’ wages were more than £1,000 a month lower than a decade ago when taking account of inflation, while pay for prison and police officers had fallen by £400.

Pay for security guards and nurses was also down by more than £100, while wages for Christmas Day workers in low-paid jobs – such as cleaners, carers, waiting staff and farm workers – had also fallen.

The most important day of the year for the clergy, who orchestrate special church services across the country, comes as their pay has fallen by £300 in real terms over the last 10 years.

Frances O’Grady, TUC general secretary, said: “While many of us are tucking in to the turkey, the UK’s Christmas workforce will be hard at work keeping vital services running. But their wages are worth even less than they were a decade ago.”

The apparent lack of festive cheer for workers comes as analysis from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) points to continued pressure on pay in 2018.

The industry body said it only a drop in inflation could lead to meaningful wage growth, despite fears that the UK could run out of enough people to fill jobs – which should act to drive up the bargaining power of workers to demand higher salaries.

The latest available figures from the Office for National Statistics showed wages lagging behind inflation for an eighth month, when reporting a 2.3% annual rise in average weekly earnings in the three months to October. The UK’s jobless rate – at 4.3% – is at its lowest level since the mid-1970s.

The consumer price index measure of inflation rose to 3.1% last month amid the rising cost of importing food and fuel to Britain following the pound’s depreciation after the Brexit vote.

Employers are growing increasingly concerned about the economy as ministers open negotiations with Brussels over Britain’s trading relationship with the EU. Not one of the 200 employers polled by the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) believed economic conditions would be less challenging in 2018.

Confidence among firms to recruit staff and to make investment decisions in the UK remains positive, but is falling, according to the REC.

There are increasing concerns about a skills gap, illustrated by an increase in the number of vacancies to 798,000 in November – the highest level since comparable records began in 2001.

Ian Brinkley, acting chief economist at the CIPD, said: “In 2017 we saw record-high employment but a big squeeze on household budgets. The next 12 months looks to be a case of more of the same.”