The past year has been difficult for many of us, and is one we don’t want to repeat. This is especially true for key workers across the UK who have led the fight against the coronavirus. According to the ONS, around 33 per cent of the UK workforce were in key worker occupations and industries in 2020.
NHS staff, educational professionals, and supermarket staff continued their work throughout 2020. Their dedication has been welcomed by the public and private sector organisations, who have aimed to show appreciation for their work. Between virtuous signs of gratitude, morale-boosting offers, and investments into their futures, we look at how key workers have been rewarded in 2020 and what it means for their lives and work.
Recognition from home
Appreciation for our key workers has never been greater. National lockdowns across the UK highlighted the sectors which the public depend on every day. Supermarket staff, NHS workers, and the emergency services have demonstrated the dedication of their professions, which can sometimes go unnoticed. But the public health crisis moved people to show their gratitude during this difficult time.
For NHS workers, this appreciation had to be shown at home. Joining our neighbours on our own doorsteps every Thursday between March and May 2020, the public cheered and clapped to show their appreciation. The act of staying home itself showed solidarity for the struggle of key workers. For them, the necessity of working on the frontline was greater than the instruction to stay home.
One survey of key workers found that NHS staff were the most likely to feel that their contribution to society had been recognised. Where only 41 per cent of key workers felt that they had been appreciated, a greater 64 per cent of NHS staff felt the same.
This greater feeling of appreciation is likely, in part, a consequence of Captain Sir Tom Moore’s gallant fundraising efforts. By walking 100 laps of his garden in the run-up to his 100th birthday, Captain Tom raised £32,796,475 for NHS Charities Together. Donations were used to create wellbeing packs for NHS staff, including recuperation rooms and devices to help staff keep in contact with their families, should they need to isolate. These actions combined show the public was behind our key workers and their efforts during the adverse period.
While the public showed its appreciation for key workers through charity and other support, many private companies wanted to demonstrate that essential workers were appreciated during this difficult period. Discount schemes and benefits for key workers were rolled out in the hospitality and retail sectors to give thanks to their hard work.
Eligibility for these discounts varied between businesses, but Blue Light Cards were generally accepted in most places. The introduction of the free CARE badge in 2020 meant that care workers both in and outside of the NHS were eligible for the same special deals.
Offers during the pandemic included:
- Up to 50 per cent off Uber taxi rides for NHS staff to get to and from work
- Free accommodation to key workers that needed to isolate from their families from Airbnb
- Morrisons offered 10 per cent off food shops
- A number of leading supermarkets provided priority shopping hours
- Most fashion retail shops offered discounts for key workers
- Cafes and takeaways such as Costa, McDonald’s and Domino’s offered free food and drinks
- Mobile network provider EE gave unlimited data to its key-working customers at no extra cost
The offers had the virtuous intention of raising spirits after a difficult day of working on the frontline against COVID-19. These acts prove that everyone can get behind the effort and make life just a little easier for people when they need it the most.
Helping hand for the future
The past year has proven the need to show more appreciation for key workers. Investing in their future is a positive way to show that their efforts will not be forgotten when life returns to normal. One substantial investment includes assistance for key workers to buy their own home.
While owning a home is a substantial investment, over time it is financially beneficial. An RSA survey shows that key workers who rent their homes are more likely to struggle if confronted with an unexpected bill of £100. Only up to 13 per cent of homeowners would struggle to pay an unexpected bill, whereas up to 45 per cent of renters would struggle to pay it.
Housing companies, such as St. Modwen Homes, are offering home extras and special initiatives to all key workers looking to buy their next or first home. These offers represent a significant advantage for NHS staff, supermarket workers, and education professionals. Benefits can include contributions towards home enhancements, such as flooring, turf, and kitchen upgrades. Homebuyers can also be supported with legal fees and moving costs. So whether you’re looking for houses in Eastwood to settle down, among a variety of locations in England, you could save a lot of money through your work.
As the average monthly buying costs are lower than monthly rental costs, the investment in homeownership is important. Helping key workers to get onto the property ladder is just another way to show our appreciation after the difficulty of 2020.
The pandemic has continued into 2021, and the new national lockdowns in England and Scotland feel like a repeated experience of the previous year. However, there is optimism that a return to normal life is approaching. While the past year has been difficult, we must continue to show our appreciation for the key workers that keep our lives moving forward despite the difficulties we encountered. The struggles of 2020 may outweigh the rewards of the year but, looking back, we can hope that the investments into our key workers will have a long-lasting and positive effect.