Covid-19: 70% of shopworkers are experiencing anxiety, says Udsaw

Shopworkers trade union Usdaw has released statistics revealing 70% of shop workers are experiencing anxiety and have raised concerns with their employers amid the Covid-19 crisis.

The statistics revealed that 39% of the 7,357 members surveyed, primarily essential workers in shops, distribution warehouses, road transport or work as delivery drivers have had Covid-19 related absences from work, because of illness, self-isolating or shielding. 

The news comes as earlier this month, Usdaw announced one in six shop workers have suffered abuse on every shift, during the coronavirus pandemic.

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The statistics revealed 62% of the 4,928 shop workers surveyed have experienced verbal abuse, with almost a third being threatened by a customer. Usdaw also revealed 4% of employees were assaulted, which amounts to more than 3,500 every day when averaged across all retail workers.

One worker told the union: “I feel frightened when I go to work in case I catch something and take it home to my elderly mother, I don’t look forward to going to work at the moment.”

Another worker said: “Work has become mentally draining in a way I have never experienced before. Every shift feels like a constant fight. My colleagues and I are exhausted and feel so deflated. We notice that customers will distance from each other but not from us, which makes us feel like we’re not even human. It has been demoralising.”

Paddy Lillis, Usdaw general secretary, said: “I have never known a single issue cause nearly three-quarters of our members to raise concerns with their employer in such a short space of time. Our survey reveals that increased abuse in shops, higher rates of illness, greater levels of job insecurity and issues with the benefits system are putting immense pressure on many Usdaw members who are key workers.

“Shopworkers and their colleagues in the retail food supply chain are on the frontline of feeding the country during the current crisis. They are providing an essential service in very difficult circumstances, working long hours in busy stores, facing abuse from customers and of course concerned they may contract Covid-19 and pass it on to their family.”

He added: “The health and wellbeing of workers is paramount. Usdaw continues to work with employers to make sure there are effective measures in place to protect staff, but this survey clearly shows there is a lot more still to be done to ensure employees feel as safe as possible throughout this pandemic. 

“Many respondents commented that they felt increasingly stressed and anxious and expressed concerns about the long term impact on their mental health. Employers need to listen to their staff and have a real and meaningful dialogue with their workforce. There are still too many employers who refuse to engage with trade unions, at a time when we need to be working together to get through this crisis.”

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