The RSA

September 2021

This 18 month study tracked the physical, mental and financial wellbeing of key workers throughout the pandemic.

It found that the UK’s 10.5 million key workers face a “security trap” – a trade-off between their health and their financial wellbeing. At the height of the pandemic, 65% of key workers were struggling

with their mental health, rising to 73% of NHS workers. 45% of supermarket workers and 31% of care workers are paid less than the Real Living Wage.

The study called for the UK government to:

  • Pay all essential workers the Real Living Wage (£9.50 per hour, or £10.85 in London);
  • Introduce enhanced Statutory Sick Pay to 60% of the wages;
  • Support mental health in the NHS and relieve pressure on the health system by working to increase staffing numbers, meeting the 108,000 full- time equivalent (FTE) nurse shortfall expected by 2028/29;
  • Make it a specific offence to abuse retail staff, affording them the same protections as other key workers;
  • Support working parents and reduce gender inequality in the workplace by treating childcare as infrastructure, targeting childcare subsidies more effectively and making childcare affordable and flexible for all by extending provision beyond the nine-to-five working week.

Final Report