Wednesday, December 7th, 2022

Putting the record straight over report on ‘essential worker’ status’ which gives low paid employees the recognition they deserve

by Cllr Michelle Lowe – Sevenoaks District Council’s Cabinet Member for Housing

IT HAS been miss-reported both locally and in ‘The Times’ newspaper over the weekend that Sevenoaks District Council is giving domestic cleaners ‘essential worker’ status. This rightly highlights the council’s proposed policy to give greater help to people who perform important but low paid work, but the council’s draft policy does not include domestic cleaners.

While the council cannot control peoples’ pay, we can do our bit to ensure there are local affordable homes for a range of low paid essential workers to enable them to live where they grew up, while supporting the social and economic needs of the district. 

The Government’s traditional definition covers public sector employees who work in health, education, policing, the fire service, the military and social care. But we believe it’s really important to go beyond their definition so we can help private sector, charity sector and self-employed people who work in care homes, retail and other services that are vital to the social and economic wellbeing of the District.

Many much needed care homes and other community facilities are not able to set up in the district because they are unable to recruit and retain low paid essential staff who are unable to afford to live in the district. We know from our housing survey that there is demand for more retirement and care homes for older people who would like to downsize but there is no where local to move to. We believe that by prioritising some new build affordable homes for essential workers, we can encourage more needed community facilities to set up and remain in the district.

While the council recognises that domestic cleaners perform valued jobs, they are not covered by our proposed policy. Our draft policy is clear – it will help workers in frontline services in public amenities (services used by the community) and by definition, this does not include domestic cleaners.

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