‘Covid mortality rates of those in insecure jobs double the norm’

New analysis from the TUC highlights high mortality for those in insecure jobs as the union body calls for action on employment rights and statutory sick pay.

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Covid-19 mortality rates during the pandemic are twice as high in insecure jobs than in other professions, according to analysis by the TUC.

The TUC defines insecure workers as those on a contract that does not guarantee regular hours or income (including zero-hours contracts, agency work and casual work) or in low-paid self-employment (earning less than the government’s National Living Wage).

The analysis shows that:

  • The Covid-19 male mortality rate in insecure occupations was 51 per 100,000 people aged 20-64, compared to 24 per 100,000 people in less insecure occupations.
  • The Covid-19 female mortality rate in insecure occupations was 25 per 100,000 people, compared to 13 per 100,000 in less insecure occupations.

The TUC says workers in insecure jobs are having to shoulder more risk of infection during this pandemic, while facing the “triple whammy” of a lack of sick pay, fewer rights and endemic low pay.

It points out that those in insecure occupations have largely continued to work outside the home during the pandemic, and that many key workers are in insecure employment.

Insecure workers account for one in nine workers – with women, disabled workers and BME workers more likely to be in precarious work, says the TUC.

According to the TUC’s analysis, sectors such as care, leisure, and the elementary occupations have high rates of insecure work – compared to managerial, professional and admin sectors which have some of the lowest.

New TUC polling, conducted by BritainThinks, shows that insecure workers are almost ten times more likely to say they receive no sick pay at all compared to those in secure work (67 per cent to seven per cent).

The TUC says the level of sick pay in the UK is undermining any prospect of a safe return to work. It states that the UK has one of the lowest rates of sick pay in Europe and that nearly two million workers, including many in insecure work, do not earn enough to qualify for it. It says this lack of sick pay is forcing those in insecure work to choose between doing the right thing and putting food on the table.

The TUC is calling on ministers to increase statutory sick pay to at least the rate of the real Living Wage and make it available for all. This will stop insecure workers suffering hardship when required to self-isolate.

It is also calling on the government to bring forward the long-awaited employment bill to boost workers’ rights and end exploitative workplace practices such as zero hours contracts. The TUC says that the Queen’s Speech on 11th May 2021 must contain an employment bill.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:   “Too many workers are trapped on zero hours contracts or in other sorts of insecure work, and are hit by a triple whammy of endemic low pay, few workplace rights and low or no sick pay.

“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.

“Ministers must urgently raise statutory sick pay to the level of the real Living Wage, and make sure everyone can get it – including those on zero hours contracts and other forms of insecure work.

“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.”

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