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Conference to hear impact of Covid on essential workers

A conference in Dublin will examine essential workers’ job quality and wellbeing during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The event is entitled ‘Working in Essential Services: Lessons from Working during Covid-19’ and will be held in the UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School.

It will explore whether essential workers possess the skills and resilience to undertake such a role again in the event of another health emergency.

Experts will also ask how we can reduce risks for essential workers in the future.

The findings from the UCD Working in Ireland Survey provide the backdrop for the symposium.

The study, which was released in October 2023, found female essential workers’ health and wellbeing were substantially more impaired than that of male workers during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The research looked at the realities of the work performed by nurses, doctors, care staff, retail staff and other essential workers during the pandemic and found that their well-being was substantially impaired during the pandemic with pronounced levels of reported anxiety.

The conference will hear from former chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan (File image)

“The pandemic was difficult for everyone, but it was especially difficult for essential workers working on the frontline,” said symposium organiser Professor John Geary of UCD College of Business.

He said: “They had to meet the pandemic head-on and each day they went to work, whether that was in a hospital, care home, meat factory or supermarket, they faced the very real possibility of contracting the virus and bringing it home to their families.

“We applauded them and are forever indebted to their courage and hard work. But we must now recognise the risks and effects this work had on them, and acknowledge that female workers in particular were very adversely affected in their work during Covid.”

“It behoves us then to enquire how such negative effects might be mitigated and reduced, and especially if there was to be another health emergency in the future,” Prof Geary said.

The conference will hear from former chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan as well as from key people across academia, business and trade unions who will examine the position of essential services across the public sector and the private economy.

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