Retail trade union Usdaw is today launching the results of a survey of low-paid key workers, which reveals the extent of mental health issues they faced throughout the Covid-19 crisis. The report will be launched at a Labour conference fringe meeting in Brighton.

The survey of over 4,000 members found that:

  1. Almost three-quarters feel anxious about going into work.
  2. By far the biggest factor is a fear of contracting the virus.
  3. Young workers’ main concern is customer abuse and harassment.
  4. Nearly half say that they feel unsafe or very unsafe at work right now.
  5. Eight out of ten say the pandemic has negatively affected their mental health.
  6. Young members are far less likely to talk to anyone about their concerns.

Full report:

Usdaw’s report makes the following recommendations:

  1. Better enforcement of the right to reasonable adjustments for workers with mental health problems through the EHRC statutory code of practice on employment.
  2. Government to ensure all employers are made aware of ‘Access to Work’ scheme so that all disabled workers can benefit from it.
  3. Introduce mandatory pay gap reporting, alongside mandatory action plans, moving away from ineffective voluntary approaches
  4. Disability leave, with absences relating to disability to be disregarded when it comes to making employment decisions.

Paddy Lillis – Usdaw General Secretary says: “The vast majority of Usdaw members are classed as ‘key workers’, occupying job roles and working in industries essential to the country’s response to the Coronavirus crisis. Very few of these jobs can be done from home. The crisis has clearly demonstrated the nation’s dependence on workers in food chain industries and shown that some of the most important jobs in society are done by those who are paid the least.

“It is well documented that although mental health problems can affect anyone at any time, they aren’t distributed equally across all groups in society. Evidence is increasing that the Covid-19 pandemic has affected the mental health of sections of the population differently, depending on their circumstances.

“Anxiety about exposure to the virus and social distancing in workplaces, increased customer abuse, isolation from friends and family, home schooling and juggling work with care, stress and worry about the future, about job security and family income – Usdaw members are facing these pressures on a daily basis.

“Our focus remains the same now as it was before the outbreak of Coronavirus; to identify how work affects our members’ mental health and ensure they get the right support. This report outlines the impact of the pandemic on the mental health of Usdaw members and gives a voice to their experience of working in critical sectors of the economy throughout the coronavirus crisis.”

Voices from the frontline: Some of the comments Usdaw received from members who completed the survey:

  1. “Been up and down at work not feeling great but keep going.”
  2. “It got to the point I felt as though I couldn’t cope.”
  3. “I just feel like I don’t have time to actually care about my mental health.”
  4. “When we are understaffed we are left to just deal with it.”
  5. “It’s tough at work. Some days I don’t even want to go in.”
  6. “The way people view and treat retail workers is an issue that needs to be fixed.
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