A duty of care: In-work poverty in London’s public sector

In-work poverty is not just a problem experienced by workers in the private sector. In this report, we explore the experiences of Londoners who work in the public sector and are living in poverty.

  • Nearly 140,000 Londoners that live in a household relying on a public sector wage, are in poverty. This equates to nearly 1 in 10 ‘public sector households’ (i.e. households where they depend (to some extent) upon a public sector wage) in the capital, compared to about 1 in 13 such households across the UK.
  • Pay rates were at the heart of the reasons why those we interviewed were suffering from in-work poverty. The problem of pay was exacerbated by uncertainty over and inadequacy of working hours
  • Employers’ attitudes to participants’ economic situations varied. Some had found their managers indifferent, while others did get some support. However, that support tended to be limited.
  • The impacts of in-work poverty are manifold. Persistent stress and anxiety about their situation was widespread. Unsurprisingly, the cost of living crisis was a recurring topic in the interviews. Participants reported struggling to pay bills and afford food.
  • The public service ethos helped to maintain motivation among some of those we interviewed, whilst others were keen to move to higher-paying private sector alternatives as soon as they could.
  • All interviewees suggest ways in their employers could help make a material difference to their economic circumstances. Steps included: increased and more certainty of hour of work a week, more training opportunities to help with progression into higher paying more secure jobs and specific support for some of the unavoidable costs (e.g. travel) associated with working.

To help the public sector do more to support workers in the most vulnerable economic circumstances, the SMF is working with Trust for London to establish a new in-work poverty benchmark, one that encourages London-based employers to do more to tackle this stark problem. The design of our benchmark is well underway.

Previous SMF work on in-work poverty among Londoners includes:

  1. Capital concerns: Poverty in London and the role of business in helping tackle it
  2. Working lives: Experiences of in-work poverty in London


Related items:

Page 1 of 1