Low-paid workers regularly exposed to Covid-19 through their job – including care home workers and nurses – are more likely to die from the virus than people in other professions, new analysis has revealed.
People in the lowest-paid, manual jobs were found to have higher rates of coronavirus mortality – sparking calls from trade unions to instigate clearer workplace safety guidance and increase sick pay.
Men working as chefs, taxi drivers, nursing assistants, nurses and bus drivers and machine operatives all had higher Covid-19 mortality rates, as did women working as sales and retail assistants, home carers, social workers, nurses and care workers.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures exposed “huge inequalities”, trade unions warned, exposing the fact that the pandemic has not had a disproportionate impact on those working in insecure jobs.
“People working in low-paid and insecure jobs have been forced to shoulder much higher risk, with too many losing their lives,” said the TUC’s general secretary, Frances O’Grady.
“The government urgently needs to beef up its workplace safety guidance and get tough on employers who put their workers in harm’s way.”
The TUC has called for an increase in sick pay to match the real living wage (£9.50 an hour – or £10.85 in London), “so that people can afford to self-isolate when they need to” – and the expansion of sick pay to cover all workers.
Ben Humberstone, ONS head of health analysis and life events, said: “Jobs with regular exposure to Covid-19 and those working in close proximity to others continue to have higher Covid-19 death rates when compared with the rest of the working age population. Men continue to have higher rates of death than women, making up nearly two-thirds of these deaths.”
The figures do not prove that rates of death are caused directly by differences in employment, however.
“There are a complex combination of factors that influence the risk of death, from your age and your ethnicity, where you live and who you live with, to pre-existing health conditions,” Mr Humberstone added. “Our findings do not prove that the rates of death involving Covid-19 are caused by differences in occupational exposure.”
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