Diary of a key worker

When speaking to Times Radio yesterday, Nadhim Zahawi, the vaccines minister, said that “teachers, policemen, shop workers” should be prioritised in the vaccine rollout process. Some within the scientific community had argued against such a measure, as many key workers are younger and therefore unlikely to face serious consequences if they contract coronavirus.

But there had been a lot of pressure on the government to announce a shift in policy, not least from trade unions arguing that their workers are forced into situations where they are coming into frequent contact with others.

However, in our poll conducted last week, less than a quarter (23 per cent) of key workers thought they should be moved further up the priority list, compared with more than twice that number (50 per cent) who thought they were in the right place already. The remainder either thought they should be moved down the list (15 per cent), have had the jab already (4 per cent) or said they don’t know (8 per cent).

Healthcare workers are slightly less likely to think they should be moved further up the list, perhaps because many of them already have priority, but the theme is consistent across all the key worker groups. Just 33 per cent of those who work in education and childcare, 16 per cent of those who work in public safety or national security, and 28 per cent of those who work in retail thought they should be moved up the list.

Instead, the data shows that many key workers would prefer to be receiving more support from their employer and from the government.

Nearly four in ten (37 per cent) say they don’t think they have received enough support from their employer over the pandemic. And when it comes to the government, 44 per cent of key workers don’t think they have provided enough support, with just 26 per cent thinking they have.

There is a particular issue around support for emotional and physical health, with 40 per cent saying they have not received enough support, compared with 32 per cent who think they have. Nearly half (46 per cent) of key workers say they have found their job more stressful over the past 12 months, rising to 53 per cent of those who work in education or childcare, and 60 per cent of those who work in healthcare.

Perhaps driven by this, 28 per cent of the key workers we surveyed even go as far as saying they have considered quitting their job in the past year.

The pandemic has not been an easy time for anyone, with many key workers facing a particularly tough set of challenges. But in response, key workers are not asking to jump the vaccine queue, just for more support from both their employer and the government.

This is the first of Opinium’s series of key worker diaries, sign up below to receive the latest updates and insights.