Stress, debt and unpaid overtime among worries for school caterers in new Unison report

17/01/2018 - 07:00
A new report from the trade union, Unison, has revealed a number of different worries currently effecting catering staff at schools across the UK.

Concerns listed among the 1,200 workers surveyed included stress, debt, unpaid overtime and a lack of training.

Findings included that four in ten (41%) school kitchen staff members are worried about their pay, with a similar number (43%) saying they are weighed down with debt (other than a mortgage).

With one in five (21%) polled admitting to be on the minimum wage, a quarter (25%) said they’ve had to take out loans from banks, credit unions or payday loan companies, while 21% have had to borrow money from friends and family.

Half of the respondents, which included staff working across primary and secondary schools in both local authority funded and academy schools, said that it’s “impossible” to do their jobs within their allocated hours.

A third of kitchen staff (33%) said they regularly do between two and five hours of unpaid overtime every week to keep their school’s kitchens operational with almost one in ten (9%) regularly working five or more hours unpaid.

The report highlights that one in four workers feel stressed "all or most of the time" while one fifth (20%) said they’ve had to take on a second job to try to cover their monthly outgoings.

A lack of training and a feeling of not being seen as a valued part of the school team were also cited as issues.

One third (33%) said they’ve not received any training in the past year, and 35% of respondents felt excluded as a member of the school as a whole.

Unison national officer for education and children’s services, Ruth Levin, said: “It’s disgraceful that some of the lowest paid employees in our education system are doing hours of unpaid overtime every week just to keep our school kitchens running and the nation’s school children fed.

“Many school kitchen staff said they were the main breadwinners for their families and have fallen into debt as the result of the freeze on their already low wages.

“As a country attempting to tackle the growing childhood obesity crisis, it’s imperative the government and head teachers place a greater value on their role in keeping children healthy.

“Unison is calling on all employers to provide both fair pay and ample training to all school kitchen staff.”

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