Union concern over working practices following latest Covid fatality figures

29 June 2020

According to the latest report from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), men and women working in social care, including home carers, both had significantly raised rates of death involving Covid-19, with rates of 50.1 deaths per 100,000 men (97 deaths) and 19.1 deaths per 100,000 women (171 deaths).

Among the occupations where men were found to have raised rates of death involving Covid-19 were: taxi drivers and chauffeurs (65.3 deaths per 100,000; 134 deaths); bus and coach drivers (44.2 deaths per 100,000; 53 deaths); and chefs (56.8 deaths per 100,000; 49 deaths).

For women, one of the occupations with the highest raised rate of death involving Covid-19 was sales and retail assistants (15.7 deaths per 100,000 women, or 64 deaths).

Of the specific health care professions, nurses had elevated rates among both sexes (50.4 deaths per 100,000 men or 31 deaths; 15.3 deaths per 100,000 women or 70 deaths).

Of the 17 specific occupations among men in England and Wales found to have higher rates of death involving Covid-19, 11 have statistically significantly higher proportions of workers from Black and Asian ethnic backgrounds; for women, two of the four specific occupations with elevated rates have statistically significantly higher proportions of workers from Black and Asian ethnic backgrounds.

Head of Health Analysis and Life Events, Ben Humberstone, cautioned: “Today’s analysis shows that jobs involving close proximity with others, and those where there is regular exposure to disease, have some of the highest rates of death from Covid-19. However, our findings do not prove conclusively that the observed rates of death involving Covid-19 are necessarily caused by differences in occupational exposure.”

Although the ONS found that nearly two-thirds of Covid-19 deaths were of male workers, the Unite union has urged that due attention must also be paid to the high level of deaths among women workers in sectors including retail, health and social care.

Assistant general secretary Diana Holland said: “Many of the professions with the highest number of deaths are not only low paid but have both a long and unsocial hours culture, which often creates specific health problems over time.”

She has called for a full public inquiry into these deaths to investigate not only if these workers were failed by a lack of personal protective equipment (PPE), but also if they were significantly more susceptible to the disease due to the cumulative effects that working long and unsocial hours had on their health.