UK public strongly in favour of pandemic bonus for key workers, poll finds

Just one in five said there should be no financial recognition for staff in key industries, such as healthcare.

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Nearly six in ten people in the UK want the government to financially reward key workers for their service during the coronavirus pandemic, according to an exclusive survey conducted by Redfield & Wilton Strategies for the New Statesman. In contrast, just one in five people said there should be no bonus for key workers.

At the start of May, the Welsh Assembly announced care workers would be receiving a £500 bonus, but unions claimed the actual amount received after taxes and deductions could be as low as £125.

The Liberal Democrats have also called for a £29-a-day bonus to frontline health workers, similar to that paid to military personnel on active duty. Meanwhile Chancellor Rishi Sunak is under pressure to reverse a decision by HMRC that classified workplace coronavirus testing as a taxable “in-kind” benefit, which may lead to a cut in take-home pay.

[see also: Front-line staff and mental health: A crisis within a crisis]

A Treasury spokesperson said:

“We are incredibly proud of our front-line staff and we recognise their extraordinary commitment. More than a million NHS workers continue to benefit from the three-year pay deal, which has seen starting pay for a newly qualified nurse increase by more than 12% since 2017/18."

“The government receives recommendations from the independent pay review bodies for seven workforces including front-line workers such as police officers, prison officers and doctors, and we plan to respond to these recommendations in due course. Last year the Government announced a second year of inflation-busting pay rises for almost a million public sector workers.”

The poll also revealed how well the UK public at large is coping. When asked, a majority of people felt that those around them had generally coped well with the pandemic and the impact of lockdown, and that their relationships had remained unchanged or had actually improved during this time.

Three-quarters of people polled said their family, friends and colleagues had coped well or very well, with only seven per cent saying the opposite. Meanwhile, 57 per cent of people said their relationships had neither improved or got worse during lockdown, compared to a third who said their relationships had improved and nine percent saying they had gotten worse.

[see also: Only 12 per cent of people in the UK fully understand how social care works]

Samir Jeraj is a Special Projects Writer at the New Statesman

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