This report from the RSA, funded by Trust for London and Standard Life Foundation, looks at how key workers are feeling in a year when the country has never depended on them more and how the Government can best step up to support them.
This is the second paper in the Key Workers Living in Lockdown series (view the first here) aiming to uncover where gaps in support for key workers exist and to demonstrate how best to bridge these gaps. It details findings from a representative survey of 1281 key works in Great Britain (excluding Northern Ireland), conducted alongside YouGov in early November.
- Key workers are facing burnout this winter - Half of all key workers feel it is likely they will face burnout this winter. This rises to 63% of NHS staff and 58% of social carers who think it is "likely” or “very likely”. Almost a quarter (24%) of NHS staff say that burnout is “very likely”.
- School teachers have overtaken supermarket workers as those who feel most at risk of catching coronavirus at work - Half of key workers, and 72% of schoolteachers, feel at high at risk of catching the virus at work.
- Social care workers are finding it difficult to take time off if they are unwell - Concerningly, 29% of care workers said that they would struggle to take time off in the event of illness. This is correlated with financial insecurity.
- Social care workers are also most pessimistic about the future of their household finances - Social care workers are the most likely key worker occupation to have taken a cut to their pay when they could not work due to coronavirus: they took more unpaid leave, were more reliant on Statutory Sick Pay, and were half as likely to receive full pay from an employer.
- Renters are starting to feel the pinch - Many key workers are carrying out vital work while suffering from economic insecurity. Shop workers and renters are particularly vulnerable to financial shocks.
- Shop workers feel least supported by the public, school and nursery staff least supported by the Government - Just 31% think the UK government is doing enough to support them, and only 35% think the same of the public, though 68% think their employer is doing well. Two-thirds of supermarket workers feel they are not supported by the public.
- In response, the RSA is calling for a one-off payment of £500 as a reward for the extraordinary hard work by key workers during the pandemic to keep critical public services working, and the introduction of enhanced Statutory Sick Pay for all workers, aimed at reducing financial disincentives to isolate.
- The government should also ensure that the Real Living Wage for all key workers (currently £9.50 outside London and £10.85 in the capital). The RSA’s analysis finds that 37% of social carers earn less than the Real Living Wage currently.
- To tackle the mental health crisis in many key worker occupations, the government should further provide a £250million benevolent fund for those struggling with mental ill-health and personal/family emergencies.