Key workers risking mental and physical health to hold down their jobs, new report warns

Almost three out of five key workers, such as those in the NHS and care sector, are risking their mental and physical health to hold down their jobs, a new report warns.

The Royal Society for Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) said its research also suggested that many people who have carried on working during the Covid-19 pandemic worry about catching the virus as part of their job.

The think tank said the Government and employers should prevent the growth of the “economic security trap” — the trade-off workers face between their financial security and their mental and physical health.

The RSA called for statutory sick pay to be extended to all employees to prevent the threat of people such as nurses and carers potentially being forced to work with Covid-19 symptoms to meet their basic needs.

A survey of 1,200 key workers for the RSA found that many, especially those in the NHS, have seen their finances hold up relatively well, although almost a fifth of supermarket workers said they struggled to make ends meet.

Three out of five key workers said their work means they have found it more difficult to balance their mental ill-health during the pandemic.

Women felt most at risk of catching the disease while doing their jobs, said the report.

Alan Lockey, head of the RSA future work centre, said: “This bank holiday, we’re reminded of the millions who’ve worked to keep us safe and well-fed during the pandemic, but our survey shows key workers are facing what we call the ‘economic security trap’.

“Closing this gap will be critical to preventing a second wave of Covid-19.

“To really help our Covid heroes, we need to see sick pay for all workers, as well as better mental health and trauma support.”

A Government spokesman said: “We recognise the impact this pandemic can have on people’s mental health and are providing £9.2 million in additional funding to national and local mental health charities to support adults and children affected. We will continue to work with the NHS, Public Health England and others to support mental health and wellbeing in the months ahead.

“To support those on low incomes through the outbreak, alongside the unprecedented package of economic support we put in place, we have announced a comprehensive package of additional welfare support. Taken together, these measures total over £9.3 billion for people affected by Covid-19, including an extra £1,040 a year on Universal Credit.

“Those not eligible for Statutory Sick Pay may be entitled to Employment and Support Allowance or Universal Credit, where immediate payments and hardship loans are available.”

Copyright (c) PA Media Ltd. 2020, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Pixabay.