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Three-quarters of key workers say they were anxious about working through the pandemic an Usdaw survey finds

Date: 10 May 2021 Retail trade union Usdaw has today, at the beginning of Mental Health Awareness Week, released findings from a survey showing that almost three quarters (74.2%) felt anxious about going into work last year. By far the biggest factor contributing to members’ anxiety is a fear of contracting the virus, with seven out of ten of all respondents identifying this as the cause.
The survey was circulated by email and paper copies were available in workplaces. Over 4,000 members responded, over two-thirds are women and three-quarters work in the retail sector, two-thirds of these in food retail.

Paddy Lillis – Usdaw General Secretary says: “The vast majority of Usdaw members are key workers, in jobs and industries crucial to the country’s response to the coronavirus crisis. Very few of these jobs can be done from home.

“The crisis has clearly demonstrated the nation’s dependence on those working in food and pharmaceutical chain industries and shown that some of the most important jobs in society are done by those who are paid the least.
“Anxiety about exposure to the virus and social distancing in workplaces, increased customer abuse, isolation from friends and family, home schooling and juggling work with care, stress and worry about the future, about job security and family income – Usdaw members are facing these pressures on a daily basis.

“The survey demonstrates the impact of the pandemic on the mental health of Usdaw members and gives a voice to their experience of working in critical sectors of the economy throughout the coronavirus crisis. We remain focused on identifying how work affects our members’ mental health and ensure members get the right support when it does.”

Voices from the frontline, some comments from the survey:
  • “I feel that customers are forgetting to social distance – you stay back to try and social distance but sometimes they touch us to get our attention”
  • “The past few years I’ve had financial troubles, but knowing there’s a supposed recession round the corner when I’m already struggling has really made the stress and worry a lot worse”
  • General rudeness has increased during the pandemic. The way people view and treat retail workers is an issue generally that needs to be fixed. 
Notes for editors:
Usdaw (Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers) is the UK's fifth biggest trade union with over 400,000 members. Membership has increased by more than one-third over the last couple of decades. Most Usdaw members work in the retail sector, but the union also has many members in transport, distribution, food manufacturing, chemicals and other trades.
Mental Health Awareness Week, 10-16 May: https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/campaigns/mental-health-awareness-week
For Usdaw press releases visit: http://www.usdaw.org.uk/news and you can follow us on Twitter @UsdawUnion

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