Who’s most at risk from coronavirus?
This provisional analysis of deaths involving coronavirus in England and Wales uses data from 9 March 2020 to 28 December 2020. It’s useful for employers as it focuses on those who form the majority of the working population, i.e. workers aged between 20 and 64. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures show a total of 7,961 deaths from coronavirus in this age group over the nine-month period: an overall death rate of 31.4 per 100,000 for working men, and 16.8 for women. They confirm that men have been more badly affected, with nearly two thirds of those dying being male, i.e. 5,128.
The highest number of death certificates were for manual workers in processing or manufacturing businesses at 143.2 per 100,000 male workers, a total of 120 deaths. This is roughly five times the all-sector average for men.
Women in these roles also had a mortality rate of double the background average, at 33.7 per 100,000, or 57 deaths. Other higher risk occupations for men have been shown to be: (1) elementary construction roles; (2) security roles; (3) care work; (4) local government workers; (5) bus and coach drivers; and (6) nursing. More or less any occupation which required work in close proximity to colleagues was a risk. The statistics also listed “caring, leisure and other service occupations” , “process, plant and machine operatives” and “healthcare occupations (non-nursing)” , all resulting in a rate of between 40 and 65 deaths per 100,000 men.
The death rate for women is significantly lower in all categories, with the highest being in care work at 47.1 per 100,000. This is three times the average. Women also had an elevated fatality rate in nursing.
Note. Those in teaching professions had a death rate which was similar to the average rate for the general population.
What does it mean?
The data is not adjusted for age, geography, the make-up of households, pre-existing conditions, or ethnicity, therefore the ONS says you should not draw too many conclusions over occupational risks. However, it does say that jobs with regular exposure to coronavirus and those working in close proximity to others have higher COVID-19 death rates. The data certainly demonstrates that men have higher rates of death than women.
How to respond
For the time being there’s no need to make any changes to the way in which you organise work.
Tip. Continue to apply strict coronavirus safety measures including minimising the need for close working, using screens where appropriate, wearing personal protective equipment, good hygiene, and encouraging staff to follow the rules for self-isolating if they have symptoms. There’s nothing more you can do in response to these statistics at this stage.