Many school catering staff are facing low pay and debt

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:
Image: Adobe Stock

A quarter of school catering staff have had to take out loans just to make ends meet, while 40 per cent are in debt because of low pay.

Survey findings released by school support staff union UNISON show that 20 per cent of catering staff are on the minimum wage and a similar number have been forced to take on a second job to boost their income.

The research involved 1,220 kitchen staff working across the UK and included kitchen and catering assistants, cooks/chefs, kitchen supervisors and catering managers.

Half of the respondents have also raised concern about workload, saying that it is impossible to fulfil all their duties in their allocated hours. A third regularly do between two and five hours of unpaid overtime a week. A lack of training and the feeling that kitchen staff aren’t seen as a valued part of the school team were also cited as issues that troubled catering staff.

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 headteachers 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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