Rent arrears, evictions, and food shortages: the impact of Covid-19 on British workers

2020-03-26 13:09:00 +0000

A new survey out today has found that more than one in three workers (36%) have been financially impacted by Covid-19 [1]. 

Reasons reported include contracted work being cancelled or ended and people having to work reduced hours or take unpaid leave. 

The survey also found that the financial impact is having a worrying effect on people’s livelihoods. 

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A quarter say they have been unable to buy food and other essential items and one in three say they have fallen behind on rent, mortgage, or loan payments. Alarmingly 11% say they have been evicted from their homes despite the temporary ban on rental evictions.

Amongst the population at large the survey found strong support for a range of proposed initiatives to make up for the shortfall in people’s earnings. Over four in five (84%) support the introduction of a universal basic income while 79% would back the freezing of all taxes and bills. 77% say rents should be frozen. 

The polling was conducted by the cross-party organisation Compassion in Politics [2] working with Opinium [3]. 

Jennifer Nadel, Co-Director of Compassion in Politics, said:

“People’s lives are being devastated by Covid-19 and while support has been put in place for big business, individual workers - especially the self-employed - have been sorely let down. We urgently need the government to introduce a basic income, at the very least for the self-employed, and substantially increase the level of statutory sick pay because £94 is simply not enough to live on each week.”

Grantley White, Senior Research Executive at Opinium, said: 

“We’re still seeing the full impact of COVID-19 on employment unfold in the UK, and as feared, a significant chunk of workers have had their normal working hours reduced (14%), experienced a drop in their usual earnings (18%), and many have lost their jobs completely (4%), likely those working on precarious zero hour contracts.

“For those whose employment has been affected by COVID-19, this has left a quarter (25%) struggling to buy essentials and the knock on impact on housing has left many falling behind on rent (14%) and mortgage re-payments (13%).

“The government has been slow to provide clarity on what exactly will be done to support groups hit particularly hard by a sudden loss of income, such as the self-employed and private renters. The public have shown strong support for provisional measures to be introduced, such as a temporary universal basic income (84%), a freeze on rents (77%) and the expansion of Universal Credit to support renters experiencing a sudden loss of income (79%).”


[1] Full tables here: