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Key workers 'risking mental and physical health' while working during pandemic

THE majority of key workers are putting their own mental and physical health at risk to work through the pandemic, a new report has warned.

The Royal Society for Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) think tank’s research also found that many have worried about catching Covid-19 in the workplace, with women feeling most at risk.

In the survey of 1,200 key workers, three in five said that their work has made it more difficult to look after their mental health during the pandemic.

The RSA urged the government and employers to prevent the growth of the “economic security trap” — the trade-off that workers face between financial security and the ability to protect their mental and physical health.

It called for statutory sick pay (SSP) to be extended to all employees to prevent those such as nurses and carers from feeling forced to work with Covid-19 symptoms for fear of being unable to meet their basic needs.

The TUC and Labour have called for SSP to be available to all workers in order to help tackle the virus, regardless of whether they currently earn enough to be eligible for the payment.

The RSA found that many — especially those in the NHS — have managed to survive financially, though almost a fifth of supermarket workers said they had struggled to make ends meet.

But the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), Unison and GMB have urged the government to do more to reward the hard work of NHS workers in tackling the virus by providing them with a long-overdue pay increase.

The RCN launched the Fair Pay for Nursing campaign at the weekend to demand a 12.5 per cent pay rise for nursing staff across Britain.

The GMB said its claim was for a 15 per cent wage rise, while Unison’s demand means that every NHS employee would receive an increase of at least £2,000 by the end of this year.

Alan Lockey, head of the RSA’s 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 spokesman for the government claimed that it recognises the “impact this pandemic can have on people’s mental health” and said that it is providing extra funding to mental-health charities.

“Those not eligible for SSP may be entitled to employment and support allowance or universal credit, where immediate payments and hardship loans are available.”

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