Workers who are regularly exposed to coronavirus through their job, including care home workers and nurses, are more likely to die from the virus than people in other professions, according to fresh analysis.
People in some of the lowest-paid, manual jobs were also found to have higher rates of Covid-19 mortality, prompting trade unions to urge the government for clearer workplace safety guidance and an increase in sick pay.
Men working as machine operatives, restaurant managers, chefs, taxi drivers, nursing assistants, local government administrators, nurses and bus drivers all had higher Covid-19 mortality rates.
Women working as machine operatives, sewing machinists, care workers and home carers social workers, sales and retail assistants, nursing assistants, nurses and national government administrators also all had higher rates of death due to the virus.
Trades unions said the figures exposed “huge inequalities” with a higher rate of Covid-19 deaths among workers in low-paid and 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 is also calling for an increase in sick pay to 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 extension of sick pay to all workers.
The figures are based on an analysis of Covid-19 deaths among workers aged 20 to 64 compared with people of the same age and sex in the general population. The figures cover fatalities in England and Wales between 8 March and 28 December 2020.
The analysis also shows 347 care worker deaths from Covid-19 up to 28 December.
The recent sharp rise in infections has caused several fatalities, including at MHA, the largest not-for-profit provider of care homes in the UK, according to its chief executive, Sam Monaghan.
“We have sadly lost four members of staff in the second wave,” he said. “We lost three in the first wave.”
“Having the PPE and having the testing honed, we are catching the infections earlier, but clearly it is still getting through because our workforce is out in the community,” he said.
Eight homes operated by MHA are now suffering acute outbreaks with infections in double digits, he said, describing the level of infection as more “persistent” than during the first wave.
Ben Humberstone, the head of health analysis and life events, at the Office for National Statistics, said, “Today’s analysis shows that 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 to 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.”
Christina McAnea, general secretary of Unison which represents health and care workers described the death toll as “shocking” and called for “proper pay for care workers who are ill or have to stay at home.”
“They can’t look after people without hands-on contact,” she said. “Keeping the rest of us safe is putting these workers at greater risk. The new covid strain, more infected patients in hospitals and the community, and sheer exhaustion all increase the dangers to workers … Sick or self-isolating care staff and home care workers still feel forced to attend work by shameless employers. This is because they’re being denied full wages. This unacceptable situation puts staff at risk and the people they look after. It must end.”