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A Fair Deal for Key Workers

Legal & General

4 min read Partner content

There are two workforces whose efforts keep the country running without the recognition they deserve: older workers and key workers. These two groups were absolutely integral to the country’s battle with COVID and everyday they are helping to power the UK’s economic growth.

So, when we talk about the heroes who’ve kept our hospitals, construction sites and bus depots open, it’s not simply younger workers we should praise, but millions of older people too. During the pandemic the over 50s played a critical role in ensuring the country was well-stocked, healthy, and able to receive everything from parcels to prescriptions. In fact, more than 15,000 retired medics re-joined the NHS to help the fight against coronavirus.

And of course, these heroes went to work despite a greater risk to their health. The average age of an HGV driver in the UK is 57 years old and according to the Office for National Statistics, driving occupations represented some of the highest rates of Covid-19 deaths. Older workers kept on trucking and their heroic stories will be told for years to come.

When we tell our children about the pandemic and how we recovered as a country, older people must not be mentioned as simply the casualties of coronavirus. The people who beat COVID came from every generation – many are still leading the fight on the frontline, helping to keep us safe and inspiring others.

There is another national workforce whose efforts are not recognised sufficiently – the members of the ‘hidden workforce’ – workers who keep buildings running, with roles including cleaning, security, and maintenance. These workers are often not directly employed by the organisations on whose sites they work.

Our Real Assets business has introduced a series of commitments to reduce health inequalities and improve the quality of life for the ‘hidden workforce’ across its real estate portfolio. At Legal & General we have been campaigning for health to be added to E, S and G – as a fourth pillar of corporate responsibility. A great example of ESHG in action is the package of work our real assets business has begun to deliver for sub-contracted workers.

We are driving change in the real estate industry by committing to introducing sick pay policies, death in service benefit and access to virtual healthcare services for hidden workers across our extensive owned and operated real estate portfolio.

We are calling on the real estate industry to do the same, thereby seeking to standardise the sector’s commitments to hidden workers. We are also engaging with our supply chain partners to close the health and wellbeing gap and improve the daily lives of hidden workers across the UK.

These commitments demonstrate the crucial role business can play in building a fairer, healthier society, and how a corporate organisation can use its scale and ambition to hugely up-scale social impact.

These commitments were made following research commissioned by Legal & General, in partnership with the charity Tavistock Relationships, to research health inequality in businesses across the UK.

The research - ‘Working Well: Delivering Better Outcomes for Hidden Workers’ - builds on Legal & General’s long-term partnership with Sir Michael Marmot, Director of the University College of London (UCL) Institute of Health Equity (IHE) and professor of epidemiology.

The old adage that ‘what gets measured gets done’ applies in this debate as it did when decarbonisation began its journey to mainstream business thinking. The Work Health Index was launched in November 2022 by Business 4 Health and is supported by the NHS and government.  The Index can incentivise positive contributions by business and guide a risk management framework for health to enhance the health and economic resilience of the UK, taking lessons from the climate change experience.

There is a great opportunity for businesses to step up over the next decade. By recognising that their role in the nation’s health runs well beyond their premises or technology, larger businesses can use their scale and voice to build on the work of Sir Michael Marmot and ensure that they are delivering a fair deal across the workforce.

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