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The dangerous effects of coronavirus on the workforce

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Simon Cereda Senior Consultant 14/05/2020

Coronavirus business tracker: May 14th 2020

As some people return to work this week and many still cannot —what are the potential health and financial implications for both groups?

27% of businesses report reducing pay for staff as a result of COVID-19

The coronavirus pandemic has forced through societal changes at a dramatic pace, radically altering the way we work and interact with one another, as well as having an enormous impact upon business in the UK.

These effects have been varied, depending on the nature of the company.

The latest Savanta tracker data shows some startling effects of the virus for workers, with worrying consequences. Despite overall levels of support for the government expressed by the public (even with recent wavering), our data suggests that large proportions of the workforce are being placed at risk, financially and physically.

Widespread pay reductions

Much of the working population is being pushed into a precarious financial situation.

Whilst over half of businesses (53%) report reducing staff hours overall, three in ten businesses (27%) also report reducing pay for staff as a result of COVID-19.

The disparity among businesses of different sizes is troubling; the data shows that those working for larger and international organisations are more likely to be shielded from the impact of reduced hours by maintaining standard pay.

Just one in eight (13%) businesses with fewer than 10 employees is maintaining pay despite reducing hours, compared with a third (31%) of those with 500-1000 employees. Likewise, just a fifth (21%) of domestic-only companies are doing so, in comparison to a third (30%) of those with international operations.

The silver lining is that of those companies increasing staff hours, many are also increasing pay (15% are increasing hours and pay vs 12%  increasing hours but maintaining pay).

Significant numbers of public-facing staff at risk

Additionally, a number of people are being pushed into risky physical situations while at work.

Some of the most concerning results from the latest Savanta B2B COVID-19 tracker relate to the provision of PPE and sanitiser for public-facing staff. Over a quarter of businesses (27%) report providing this equipment, but the figure for those who are not remains  high (14%).

Absorbing the cost of care

Three in ten companies (29%) report that they are allowing staff to care for children and other dependents without change to their normal monthly pay.  However, more than a fifth (22%) say that providing this care is coming out of their employees’ pockets.

As the government starts planning a lockdown exit strategy and critical commentary starts ramping up, we must acknowledge the multitude of ways the pandemic is adversely affecting the workforce.

It’s clear from the data that millions of employees have had their pay reduced and their health compromised. While many will welcome the news that the furlough scheme has been extended until October, it will be up to both business and government to ensure employees aren’t suffering needlessly while we wait for the pandemic to pass.

Find out more about our coronavirus data trackers and how you can ask your own bespoke questions.

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