Part-time workers have reacted with dismay to the tightening of rules which could lead to a reduction in their benefits unless they work more hours or take steps to increase their income.
The changes, which will take effect in January, will require claimants who work up to 15 hours a week (24 hours a week for couples) to take steps to increase their earnings. The current threshold is nine hours, but this goes up to 12 hours per week on Mondays, and 19 hours per week for couples.
In his growth plan to revive the economy which he unveiled on Friday, Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng said the change would affect 120,000 people on Universal Credit who were working on low incomes. “They will have to actively look for work and go to weekly or fortnightly appointments at a job center in order to obtain a more or better paid job, otherwise they could see their benefits reduced,” he said. declared.
Jess Philips, Labor MP for Birmingham Yardley, tweeted that the changes would hurt women the most. “Women! That’s who it hurts. Women are more likely to work part-time. If the Chancellor were to pay for the billions of pounds of free labor that women do, he would be borrowing even more dangerous sums,” he said. she writes.
A number of part-time workers, some over the age of 50, have contacted the Guardian to say they would struggle to increase their hours due to health, childcare or other constraints .
Sarah Card, 49, a single mother who works as a behavior support assistant at a secondary school in Bradford, said: “As I work in a school, I can’t just increase my hours. I asked about overtime but a full time position would mean starting before 8am and I just can’t do it due to no travel and childcare options , so what does the government expect of me? I will always check things [jobs]but usually this is not feasible.
She added: “I have three young children, the youngest still in primary school, so the part-time hours fit perfectly into the running of the school. Now I’m being told I need to earn another 50% more from this month and even more from January. »
Card works 10 hours a week as a lunchtime assistant after being fired from her job as a teaching assistant at her daughter’s elementary school. After losing her job, she had to attend weekly appointments at an out-of-town job centre, which involves two bus rides and takes about an hour.
“It’s a whole morning for a five-minute date. I don’t drive so I rely on public transport which not only has gone up in price but the services I use have been reduced so I’m limited as to where I can go.
During school holidays, she sometimes takes her children aged 9, 11 and 12 with her to Pôle Emploi. She also has three adult children. Card hopes that in the future, some of these meetings with a job coach can be done over the phone.
Card starts work at 11:45 a.m. and finishes at 2 p.m., giving her an hour and a half before she has to pick up her daughter from elementary school. “With my kids being the age they are – we do homework, baths, dinner, then bed – how am I supposed to adjust to 20 hours of job hunting every week?”
She added: “I have a job that matches my life and I don’t ask for things to be given to me.” Card plans to apply for a full-time job once her youngest child starts high school in two years.
On top of his gross monthly salary of £350, Card receives £1,410 a month in Universal Credit. His rent is £575 and his energy bills are around £300 a month. His former partner used to pay him a similar amount for maintenance every month, but that stopped because he had an accident and is on statutory sickness benefit. Adding to her worries, her landlord sells so she has to find a new home, which doesn’t turn out to be easy.
A 62-year-old chef, who is looking for part-time work and has health issues, said: “You can’t force people to work longer when they physically can’t. Plus, it doesn’t promote more productivity, quite the contrary – ask any business owner. »