With households bracing for the biggest drop in living standards on record as food prices continue to rise and many struggling to pay their energy bills this winter, four people share why they are taking on a second job.
“I’m no better off than I was when I was £7,000 a year”
Jo Thompson, a single mother of two from Lincolnshire, normally works a 45-hour day week as a senior NHS analyst and team leader, earning a salary of £41,000.
At night she is a pizza delivery man, a job she took on at the end of August.
“I now work around 60 hours a week,” says the 44-year-old. “At first I found it embarrassing to have a job delivering pizza, but I’m grateful to have the opportunity to do something to improve my financial situation. I have two teenage children and every month I would end up in deep overdraft. But when my heater broke, my car broke down, my daughter needed a new mattress and her bike got stolen, I decided I had to try a second job.”
Thompson says the extra income is helping ease worries about her finances, but it’s still not enough. After paying her £599 mortgage and £70 basic rent, electricity bills of £374, £240 for petrol, £150 for her children’s commute to school, £120 for life, home, car and dental insurance, her £20 Union dues, a £35 donation to charity and £170 for her credit card bill, leaving her £527 for food and everything else.
“I’ll soon be making £43,000 in my day job but that won’t touch the pages. Another driver at the pizzeria is quitting soon and I’ll be asking about their shifts, so I’ll be working about 75 hours a week. It’s a mighty stretch, I’m done.
“My children are very understanding, but our lives must now be organized with military precision. I am also the only child of an elderly parent and have to take my mother to go shopping and to appointments.
“It’s really not what I imagined it would be like in my 40s. It’s crazy. I thought I would be fine and able to provide for my family properly, but absurdly I’m no better financially now than I was when I was making £7,000 a year and having help with housing and other expenses. “
“I couldn’t pay the mortgage without a part-time job”
Even people with household incomes well above average say they have no choice but to take on a part-time job.
Caleb*, 46, a divorced father of three children under the age of 13, lives in Surrey and was working as a full-time project manager in financial services regulation when he decided to take up a second full-time position in the same field a year ago.
“I had to get a second job to support myself when the cost of living started to spiral out of control,” he says.
“It’s very similar to what I do in my day job. Being able to work from home allowed me to take on a second client project, so I commute between the two all day. I used to work 40 hours a week. Now I’m working 80.”
Saving two hours of commute time by teleworking doesn’t protect him from having to work late into the night.
“My work is now eroding all family and personal time. It exhausts you. However, since the daily rates for projects in my industry have been shrinking steadily since Brexit – since a lot of work has been relocated to Europe – I would be in financial difficulties without my second job. I couldn’t pay the mortgage.”
Juggling both jobs at the same time, says Caleb, can’t work in the long run. He is considering downsizing to a smaller property that is less financially taxing.
“The two jobs are an interim solution so that I can build up a financial cushion so that I can only have one job again and concentrate on my family. I am currently making around £500 a month. But when this buffer is used up, maybe after six months, I have to take a second job again.
“I don’t know what the way out is. It is very worrying, but needs must be.”
“I use what I earn from my Saturday job to pay for unforeseen expenses.”
James Oldham, a Shropshire horticultural buyer, works 50 hours a week in a busy nursery and has had to work eight-hour Saturday shifts in a large private garden he is transforming to support his family.
“Until we’re eligible for state childcare benefits when our twins turn three, our only option is for my wife to stay at home. If she went back to work, all of her wages would go toward daycare fees,” says Oldham, 34.
“My main income of £1,800 after tax roughly covers our living expenses, including mortgage, fuel, groceries, utility bills and council tax. I use the £600 a month I earn from my Saturday job to pay for unforeseen expenses like car repairs.
“Without her, I’d have to top up my credit card some months, and we try to put some of that aside for when times get tough, although we don’t manage to do that every month.”
“We are the perfect example of what the average family with young children has to do to make ends meet.”
“I have to accept every extra shift that is offered to me”
Sarah, 58, a supervisor in a secondary school in Cornwall, works part-time as a swimming coach and lifeguard to make ends meet.
The youngest of her seven children still lives at home, with some of the others occasionally staying for shorter periods.
“Last school year I worked 42.5 hours a week during school and then taught swimming lessons two nights a week,” says Sarah. “I’ve now switched to the school my son attends to see him occasionally, where I now work 32.5 hours a week, then either teach two more hours of swimming or work an evening shift as a lifeguard or receptionist. I have to accept any additional shift that is offered to me; Some days I work 13 hours.
“The father of my children hasn’t paid a dime in child support for five years, when he should have. I rent, and if I didn’t have the second job, I’d have to apply for Universal Credit to get housing help.”
The long working days have taken a toll on both her mental and physical health, says Sarah.
“I still can’t afford to eat right, which doesn’t help. I can’t afford to put a lot of diesel in my van so bike to work whenever possible which helps my mental health but not fatigue.
“Sometimes I feel like I can’t cope, that I can’t do it on my own. I will not be able to afford to retire.”
*This name has been changed