Workers on zero-hours contracts and other insecure jobs are twice as likely to have died of Covid-19 as those in other professions, according to a report from the Trades Union Congress.
The research reveals stark inequalities in the workplace.
Those on the frontline of the pandemic, such as care workers, nurses and delivery drivers, were at a higher risk of death. It said many of these key workers were in insecure work, such as zero-hours contracts and agency employment, landing them with a “triple whammy” of no sick pay, fewer rights and endemic low pay, while having to shoulder more risk of infection. Insecure jobs were defined using occupations with a higher proportion of workers employed on contracts that did not guarantee regular hours or income, or low-paid self-employment.
Covid-19 mortality rates among male workers in insecure jobs was 51 per 100,000 people aged 20-64, compared with 24 out of 100,000 in more secure work. For female staff the rate was 25 per 100,000, compared with 13 per 100,000 in higher-paying secure work.
Sectors such as care, leisure, and occupations such as labouring, factory and warehouse work have the highest rates of insecure work, compared with managerial, professional and administrative roles, which have some of the lowest. Insecure workers account for one in nine of the total workforce, with women, disabled people and BAME workers more likely to be in precarious roles.
The union body said the lack of proper sick pay was forcing those in insecure jobs to choose between protecting their lives and putting food on the table. The UK has one of the lowest rates of sick pay in Europe and nearly 2 million workers, including many in insecure work, do not earn enough to qualify for it.
Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the TUC, said the government had failed to bring forward an employment bill promised in 2019 to bolster workers’ rights and legal protections. She said urgent action was required to tackle insecure employment practices and support low-paid workers.
“Lots of them are the key workers we all applauded – like social care workers, delivery drivers and coronavirus testing staff. This must be a turning point,” she said. “If people can’t observe self-isolation when they need to, the virus could rebound. No one should have to choose between doing the right thing and putting food on the table.”
Workers in insecure jobs twice as likely to die of Covid, TUC research finds | Zero-hours contracts | The Guardian
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