The government must act to increase mileage rates for all frontline public sector workers who cannot do their jobs without vehicles but are struggling with fuel costs, UNISON said today (Tuesday).
HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) has not increased the allowance in a decade. Affected workers include midwives attending home births, district nurses, social workers and pest controllers.
According to UNISON, this means employees are effectively subsidizing their employers because they are paying far more for gas than they can reclaim, especially as fuel prices remain so high.
The approved car mileage rate set by the Treasury has not changed since 2011/12. It’s 45p for the first 10,000 miles and 25p for each additional mile in a tax year, and there are no mileage refunds for workers on NHS contracts*, UNISON adds.
In contrast, the cost of gasoline and oil has increased by 45% this year alone. The total cost of motor vehicles, including petrol, oil and vehicle maintenance, has increased by 39% since 2011**, the union said.
A new analysis from UNISON shows that to keep up with these increases requires a 63p increase in mileage for the first 10,000 miles and then 35p for each additional mile. This would put £150 a year back in workers’ pockets and better reflect the real cost of driving.
A separate UNISON survey of healthcare workers and staff from organizations providing NHS services reveals how they rely on their own vehicles to get work done.
Results from 550 employees show that the vast majority (91%) of those who drive at work use their own vehicle. More than two in five (44%) of them drive more than 4,000 miles a year for work, including some who clock up more than 10,000.
An overwhelming number (95%) of employees who commute to work are required to do so as part of their contract. More than a fifth (24%) say they can’t use public transport to get work done because either it’s not available or it doesn’t run at convenient times.
About one in six (18%) say they need to carry heavy or dangerous equipment when commuting to work. Despite having to use their car, more than nine in ten (94%) say the current mileage reimbursement rate does not cover their actual travel expenses.
Later today, public sector workers travel to Parliament to highlight how the fuel costs they incur while working are draining their finances. They are asking the Treasury to review HMRC mileage rates to reflect the true cost of using the vehicle for their work.
They will share their stories in a panel discussion organized by UNISON and moderated by Dan Jarvis MP. Labour, Conservative and SNP MPs will also attend the event.
UNISON General Secretary Christina McAnea said: “Staff can’t keep putting their hands in their pockets like this. No one should have to pay for work, especially those providing essential services.
“In the end, many will leave the public service altogether because of completely inadequate kilometer tariffs. They simply cannot afford the gas for their jobs, on top of the huge bills and other rising living expenses.
“The government must now take action by raising tariffs so that employees do not subsidize their employers.”
Notes for editors:
–*NHS Agenda for Change (AfC) contracts or staff with AfC mileage allowances on their contracts are currently paid 56p for each of the first 3,500 miles, then 20p per mile over that amount. These numbers have not been updated since 2014. Mileage payments by local government employees have not increased since 2010.
-**Office for National Statistics, consumer price inflation tables to July 2022 – rates shown refer to retail price index.
– Public service workers participating in the roundtable include social workers, an occupational therapy supervisor and an adult social worker. It will take place at 10 a.m. in Parliament.
-Case Studies (names changed):
-Michael is a social worker in Kent. His work consists of visiting people with disabilities in their homes. He’s been doing the job for ten years and the mileage hasn’t increased once in that time. He says fuel costs have a big impact on him and his colleagues. They have started conducting telephone investigations instead of visiting people in their homes because they cannot afford to put the gas in their cars. Sometimes visits are not made when they need to because staff have to wait for payday before they can afford the trip. Low wages, rising bills and outdated mileage rates also take their toll on his family. They cut back on their spending and dread the winter.
– Emma is an assistant on an occupational therapy team at a Lancashire hospital. She must travel regularly to visit patients’ homes and must use a car every day, covering considerable distances. She says her team has a growing number of vacancies that cannot be filled as low wages and the cost of fuel discourage people from applying. This increases the pressure on already exhausted employees to cover additional visits with the extra kilometers that come with them.
– UNISON is the UK’s largest union with over 1.3 million members, providing public services in education, local government, the NHS, police and energy. They are employed in the public, voluntary and private sectors.
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