Thank you to all those who contacted me about HMRC’s approved mileage rates for employers reimbursing staff for the cost of using a vehicle for work, and the impact of these rates on public service workers.
Many public service workers need to use their cars to carry out their jobs. Yet, as UNISON has highlighted, while motoring costs have increased by nearly 40% over the last decade, the rates set by HMRC to reimburse these workers have been frozen since 2011. NHS mileage rates, meanwhile, have remained the same since 2014. This results in employees effectively subsidising their employers, and being left out of pocket. Many of these employees – hailed as heroes during the darkest days of the COVID-19 pandemic – are among the lowest paid staff in the NHS, the care sector and social services.
It is crucial to the success of our public services that we recruit and retain highly-skilled and qualified individuals to work in the public sector. NHS heroes and care workers, who valiantly protected those most in need during the course of the pandemic, deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. It is therefore worrying that a UNISON survey has found, for example, that 94% of community health trust workers said they no longer feel their car mileage reimbursement covers the cost of driving.
I believe the inadequacy of the current mileage allowance system has the potential to worsen staff shortages in the public sector. The Government says it sets the approved mileage allowance payment rates to minimise administrative burdens and that employers are able to reimburse “a different amount that better reflects their employees’ circumstances”. However, the Government should assess the merits and flaws of the HMRC mileage allowance rates to ensure that our public services remain world-class. It needs to ask itself whether it thinks it right that NHS and care workers have to subsidise the costs of their own employment, or whether those who looked after and protected the most vulnerable over the course of the pandemic deserve better.