Women who are key workers are losing sleep, spending more on bills and worrying about their children’s education and mental health during the pandemic, a new survey shows.
The poll by UNISON, published today, asked nearly 47,000 women including teaching assistants, nurses, council workers and police staff.
Some respondents described being left to pay all the bills after the death of their partner from Covid.
Another said they had resorted to wrapping themselves in blankets to save on electricity bills.
The union said the poll showed the desperate situations key workers are facing, and why they need proper time off and a pay rise.
The findings are released ahead of UNISON’s Empowering Women virtual conference, which opens later today (WED) with a keynote address from new general secretary Christina McAnea.
Nearly two thirds (65%) reported not sleeping well, more than half (51%) not taking regular breaks and a significant number (57%) feeling stressed most of the time.
The impact of the pandemic on children is also a source of anxiety for many.
Of the women who are parents, more than three in five (61%) are worried about the mental health of their children and more than two fifths (45%) are concerned about how their education is being affected.
And the vast majority (93%) said they miss catching up with close friends in person, and many (50%) do not have time to reflect and destress, especially those with children or looking after loved ones at home (62%).
More than a third (37%) say they are experiencing loneliness and the percentage rose (57%) among those living on their own.
UNISON general secretary Christina McAnea said: “Public services would have come to a standstill without the vital jobs done by women in our schools, hospitals, police forces and local councils.
“But employees are exhausted. They’re worn out from meeting work demands during Covid while caring for relatives, looking after children and dealing with debt. Those on low wages are the ones shouldering these burdens most of all.
“All women deserve better and this country’s economic recovery depends on them. But their mental and physical health is at stake.
“The government needs to step up by providing the funding and support to make their working lives easier.”