Mileage rate rise needed urgently for public sector staff

Workers cannot go on subsidising employers while driving for work

The government must act to raise mileage rates for all frontline public service staff who can’t do their jobs without vehicles, but are struggling with fuel costs, says UNISON today (Tuesday).

HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) has not increased the allowance in a decade. Workers affected include midwives attending home births, district nurses, social workers and pest control officers.

UNISON says this means staff are effectively subsidising their employers, ​because they are paying much more for petrol than they can claim back, especially as ​fuel prices remain so high.

The approved mileage rate set by the Treasury for cars has not changed since 2011/12. It stands at 45p for the first 10,000 miles and 25p for every additional mile in a tax year, nor have mileage reimbursements for workers on NHS contracts*, adds UNISON.

In contrast, the cost of petrol and oil has risen by 45% just this year. Overall motoring costs, including petrol, oil and vehicle maintenance, have soared by 39% since 2011**, says the union.

New analysis by UNISON shows that to keep pace with th​ese increases, a 63p mileage rate increase is needed for the first 10,000 miles and then 35p for every additional mile. This would put £150 a year back into workers’ pockets and better reflect the real costs of motoring.

A separate UNISON survey of health staff and those employed by organisations providing NHS services highlights how they rely on ​their own vehicles to do their jobs.

Findings based on 550 staff show the vast majority (91%) of those who drive a car at work use their own vehicle. More than two in five (44%) of these travel over 4,000 miles a year for work, including some ​who clock up more than 10,000.

An overwhelming number of staff (95%) of staff who drive for work are required to do so as part of their contract. More than a fifth (24%) say they are unable to use public transport ​to do their jobs, either because none is available or ​doesn’t run at suitable times.

​Around one in six (18%) say they ​need to carry heavy or dangerous equipment when they drive for work. Despite needing to use their cars, more than nine in ten (94%) say the current mileage reimbursement rate does not cover their actual driving costs.

Later today, public service staff are travelling to Parliament to highlight how fuel costs they incur through work are taking a toll on their finances. They are asking the Treasury to review HMRC mileage rates to reflect the real costs of using vehicle for their jobs.

They will share their stories in a roundtable discussion organised by UNISON and hosted by Dan Jarvis MP. Labour, Conservative and SNP MPs are also due to attend the event.

UNISON general secretary Christina McAnea said: “Staff can’t carry on putting their hands in their pockets like this. No one should have to pay to ​work, especially those providing vital services.
“Many will end up quitting the public sector altogether because of wholly inadequate mileage rates. They simply can’t afford the petrol to do their jobs, on top of huge bills and ​other rising living costs.

“The government must take action now by increasing rates so staff aren’t subsidising their employers.”

Notes to editors: 
*NHS Agenda for Change (AfC) contracts, or staff with AfC mileage allowances in their contracts, currently get 56p for each of the first 3,500 miles, then 20p per mile over this amount. These figures have not been updated since 2014. Local government workers have not seen their mileage payments increase since 2010.
-**Office for National Statistics, consumer price inflation tables to July 2022 – rates quoted are for the retail prices index.
-Public service employees attending the roundtable include social workers, an occupational therapy support worker and an adult social care worker. It takes place at 10am in Parliament.
-Case studies (names have been changed):
-Michael is a social worker in Kent. His job involves going to visit disabled people in their homes. He has done the job for ten years, and mileage rates haven’t gone up once in that time. He says the cost of fuel is having a big impact on him and his colleagues. They have started doing phone assessments, instead of visiting people in their homes because they can’t afford to put the petrol in their cars. Sometimes visits aren’t done ​when they need to be because staff have to wait for pay day before they can afford the trip. Low pay, rising bills and out-of-date mileage rates are taking their toll on his family too. They are cutting back on spending and are dreading the winter.
– Emma is a support worker in an occupational therapy team in a hospital in Lancashire. She regularly has to travel to visit patients in their homes and needs to use a car every day, travelling significant distances. She says her team has a growing number of vacancies that cannot be filled as low pay and petrol costs are putting people off applying. This is adding pressure to already exhausted staff to cover extra visits with the additional miles that entails.
– UNISON is the UK’s largest union with more than 1.3 million members providing public services in education, local government, the NHS, police service and energy. They are employed in the public, voluntary and private sectors.

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