Rates of death involving coronavirus among people working in social care continue to be significantly higher than those for the wider working population, according to new figures.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said 7,961 deaths involving coronavirus in the working age population – those aged 20 to 64 years – were registered between March 9 and December 28 2020.
A total of 469 COVID-19 deaths among social care staff were registered, with rates of 79.0 deaths per 100,000 males and 35.9 deaths per 100,000 females.
In this group, ‘care workers and home carers’ – defined by the ONS as those working on the frontline in residential, day care and domiciliary care settings – accounted for 74% (347) of the deaths, with 109.9 deaths per 100,000 males (107 deaths) and 47.1 deaths per 100,000 females (240 deaths).
ONS head of health analysis and life events Ben Humberstone said: “Today’s analysis shows that jobs with regular exposure to COVID-19 and those working in close proximity to others continue to have higher COVID-19 death rates when compared with the rest of the working age population.”
The figures do not prove that rates of death are caused directly by differences in employment, however.
Ben added: “As the pandemic has progressed, we have learnt more about the disease and the communities it impacts most. There are a complex combination of factors that influence the risk of death; from your age and your ethnicity, where you live and who you live with, to pre-existing health conditions. Our findings do not prove that the rates of death involving COVID-19 are caused by differences in occupational exposure.”
Overall, nearly two-thirds of the 7,961 registered deaths were among men (5,128 deaths).
When looking at a broad range of occupations, men who worked in elementary occupations, including security guards and taxi drivers, (699 deaths), or caring, leisure and other service occupations (258 deaths) had the highest rates of death involving COVID-19, with 66.3 and 64.1 deaths per 100,000 males, respectively.
In women, process, plant and machine operatives (57 deaths) and caring, leisure and other service occupations (460 deaths) had the highest rates of death involving COVID-19, with 33.7 and 27.3 deaths per 100,000 females, respectively.
Dan Shears, director of health, safety and environment at trade union GMB, said: “The deaths of eight thousand working age people is a devastating and bitter milestone that could have been avoided.
“The truth is that the UK was too slow to respond to the outbreak in workplaces. The messages from Ministers have been inconsistent, and to date there have been no prosecutions of employers for breaches of regulations relating to coronavirus.”
GMB has previously written to Matt Hancock to demand all NHS and social care workers are given access to full PPE to prevent “thousands more” unnecessary deaths.
Dan added: “Workers are still being forced to use inadequate PPE, and some people are attending work despite being infectious because they cannot afford to self-isolate. These are structural problems that could have been fixed months ago.
“The time for action is now – Ministers and employers must urgently convene with workers’ representatives to address the ongoing and needless risks in workplaces before more lives are lost.”