Government must raise ‘out-of-date’ mileage rates for struggling public service staff, says UNISON 

Mileage rates are woefully out of date.

More than a million public service workers including care staff, district nurses, housing officers, police staff and probation officers are being left thousands of pounds out of pocket because ministers have failed to update national mileage rates, says a UNISON report published today (Friday).

NHS, social care, police and local government employees who need to drive for work are up to £6,000 a year worse off because the current 45p rate, set by HM Revenue and Customs, has not changed in over a decade, according to research by the union and the RAC Foundation.

The report Driven Out of Work says the allowance should be 63.4p a mile based on increased motoring costs and inflation.

This financial ‘mileage gap’ means public sector workers – who need to travel as part of their jobs – are effectively subsidising their employers for their work-related journeys, says the report.

UNISON says this is having a major impact on frontline staff, of whom at least one in five is required to drive for work, according to the findings.

Driven Out of Work says some staff are using up annual leave rather than go into work or calling in sick because they have run out of fuel and cannot afford to fill up their vehicles.

Some social care employees say they’ve had to sell their cars to cover essential payments, such as housing or energy bills, and have had to shift to public transport so they can visit the people they care for.

But having to use buses and trains to get around increases the travel time for staff and reduces the number of visits they can make and people they can see.

UNISON is urging the government to bring in the 63.4p rate, act on low wages and give hospitals and local authorities the funding so they can invest in public sector electric vehicle fleets.

UNISON general secretary Christina McAnea said: “Mileage rates are woefully out of date. No one should pay a penalty effectively for doing their job, least of all those providing vital services.

“Petrol prices have skyrocketed. Care workers, nurses and other frontline employees can barely make their incomes stretch to cover the basics, let alone the costs of using their vehicles for work.

“The government must tackle low pay now, not threaten to hold public sector wages down. Essential staff shouldn’t be out of pocket for going to work. A failure to act now risks worsening the already dire staffing crisis.”

Notes to editors:
– Click here for an executive summary of Driven Out of Work. The findings are based on two UNISON surveys which took place in March. One was of 957 public service workers across the UK who use a vehicle for their job; and the other was on the impact of the cost-of-living crisis and featured the responses of 17,787 public service workers in the UK, of whom 3,452 travel by car for work.
– Case studies (all names have been changed): Mike, a homecare worker and single parent from Aberdeenshire, said: “The increase in petrol is what is hitting me the most. To travel to clients’ homes in rural locations, 42p per mile is just not cutting it. I’m doing on average 61 miles per six-hour shift. It’s getting to the point where I’m cutting back at home so I can afford to work.”
– Samina, an NHS worker in Leicester, said: “I can’t afford to top my car up to see patients in their homes. I have sleepless nights as a result. I’m now thinking of leaving a job I love.”
– Sonia, a care worker in Scotland, said: “My job involves driving up to four hours a day to visit children who are vulnerable or in care. Sometimes, I have to drive those placed temporarily in care to supervised visits with their parents. I don’t know how I’d afford to fill up the car for work without using credit cards. It takes two months to process my expenses claim so I end up cutting down on the food shop and other basics.”
– Kate, who supports rough sleepers in Norfolk, said: “I drive my own car for over two hours every day to visit rough sleeper sites and support them with accommodation and other issues. I can’t afford to keep doing this. I spend more on fuel than I get back from the council. Sometimes I even skip meals to ensure I can keep filling up my car.”
– Deanna, a social care worker in Cambridgeshire, said: “I visit people in their homes to assess them and transport equipment and documentation. This is to help them get discharged from hospital and free up beds. I drive around 10,000 miles a year. I really feel the pinch every time I fill up my car or renew my insurance.”
– Roger, a school counsellor from Scotland said: “I have to drive around 450 miles a month to visit different schools. I spent extra on a hybrid car try to keep costs down and minimise my environmental impact. But it’s still around £300 a month and I only get a fraction of that back. My contract states I have to have access to a car, so I use up my allowed miles for work and cut down on seeing friends and family.”
– 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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