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How has Covid-19 affected students in work?

Restaurants turning to take-out. Source: Queven (via Pixabay)

By Charlotte King and Maisie Marston

Since the UK went into lockdown towards the end of March, the British Government has been encouraging ‘non-essential’ businesses to close and for only ‘key workers’ to travel to work. This week, Gair Rhydd has spoken to students, some who are continuing to work as key workers, and others who have found themselves either working in unusual circumstances or without employment entirely, to hear more about how Covid-19 has affected their work life.

Read on to hear these students’ stories about life in work during the pandemic, the choices they have made, and struggles they now face.Leila

What university do you go to and what course do you study?

Royal Holloway University, English Literature and Creative Writing.

What is your line of work?

Stables worker and holiday park employee; I am now unemployed.

How has the virus affected your work, and have you found yourself without work since the lockdown restrictions came in?

I worked at a riding stables, freelancing teaching lessons and doing normal stable duties at university, then I also worked when home at a holiday park and at another riding stables.

I’m not working as I have had to come home. I did one shift at Tesco which I enjoyed, but decided it wouldn’t be safe to work as I would be at a higher risk of catching Covid-19. I really enjoy working as it helps me feel more productive and helps with my mental health, and I find it hard having too much time on my hands. I have been trying to exercise to help!

Have you sought any government or university financial support? If so, what? If not, why not?

The holiday park has furloughed me now, which has been a great help!Heather

What university do you go to and what course do you study?

University of Worcester, Sports Therapy.

What is your line of work?

Supermarket employee.

How has the virus affected your work, and have you found yourself without work since the lockdown restrictions came in?

With university cancelled for the rest of the year and seeing the news about panic buyers, I knew that my old store (Lidl) would be more than willing to take me back.
Although it has been quite an unnerving experience thus far with many people still not taking on the recommended lockdown regulations and the lack of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) provided to us, a lot of customers have been very grateful for the service we are still providing.

As seen, there is now a restriction on the number of customers we allow in the store at any one time which makes the shopping environment much more pleasant and it also feels less chaotic.

However since the pandemic outbreak, customers have been afraid to talk to us in case they happen catch Covis-19 from us (although whispering seems to be more safe from what I’ve gathered).Katie

What university do you go to and what course do you study?

Cardiff University, Civil Engineering.

What is your line of work?

Self-employed cycle courier.

How has the virus affected your work, and have you found yourself without work since the lockdown restrictions came in?

Whilst I am technically a ‘key worker’, most of the restaurants that we deliver have closed meaning there’s very little work around. Shifts are currently only being released one day at a time, often only allowing for one person to work at a time.

Although I am technically self employed, the company has made some effort to help us, offering statutory sick pay if you get a sick note from NHS 111. However, there’s no replacement for loss of earnings because of the lack of work.

Have you sought any government or university financial support? If so, what? If not, why not?

I have only been doing the job for 6 months, and therefore didn’t complete a tax return from 2018/19, so I will not be eligible for this money. Even if I had been eligible, this grant doesn’t reflect the fluctuation in earnings from my job weeks. I am very fortunate in that my parents are happy to lend me money to tide me over until the next student loan.Molly

What university do you go to and what course do you study?

The Open University, History.

What is your line of work?

Healthcare worker.

How has the virus affected your work, and have you found yourself without work since the lockdown restrictions came in?

I study with the Open University, it’s cheaper than Redbrick universities and allows me to be closer to my family; this year I have studied BA History on a full-time basis and worked part-time.

I work part-time as a healthcare worker for adults with learning disabilities. It’s super fun and rewarding but it was also proving hard to balance with full-time university. Unlike a lot of students, Covid-19 has actually made my work hours far longer, earlier, and more frequent.

It’s turned my work from a part-time way to make money into the sole focus of my days; and as more and more staff begin to self-isolate my hours keep on going up.

In many ways, the virus has made working in healthcare even more satisfying, as I know that now, more than ever, the people I support need us there.

However, it’s made my education massively take a backseat, which is really hard to manage at times.

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