We’re now almost half way through TUC Young Workers Month 2020 and want to thank the young members who have already got in touch as part of our ‘Time to be Heard’ campaign. We have heard some really positive stories from our young members of their experiences of working throughout the pandemic, as well as their concerns for the future.
First, we hear from Belinda Thorne, a Team Leader at OVO Energy who has been able to get to know her colleagues and have a better work life balance as a result of working from home during lockdown.
“Working at OVO during the pandemic has been challenging but also very rewarding, we went through a big redundancy within the company, which was based on how long you have worked for the company to get a Voluntary enhanced redundancy.
“As you can imagine anyone that is under 25 would have worked for SSE/OVO for a max 7 years and in my case it was 5 years, so our packages were not as great as some people who had worked for the company for 25 years plus. It was a very difficult decision for me and a lot of people my age as our packages were only 3/4 months wages and we all knew how hard it would be to get a job right now.
“However it has also been very rewarding, we have moved to home working and I love it. I have so much more flexibility with work, I don’t have to sit in traffic every evening for an hour to get home.
“I have also gotten to know people a lot more as we actually communicate a lot more from home through Skype and phone (which I really never thought would happen). People have become a lot more understanding about family issues and child care.
There have been challenging days, but we have come together through this pandemic to make it work. Our leaders in OVO have also been incredible, all have had an ‘open door policy’ and we have been constantly updated on any news on changes during the pandemic.’’
Theodore Michael, a Play Worker at an after-school club, shared his concerns around the health and safety of staff and the families he works with.
“It was very nerve-wracking at first, especially as I am immunocompromised. My workplace has been made much safer by splitting the children up, supplies of hand sanitiser, the NHS Track and Trace system and face masks for staff. I was even able to go on a COVID-19 Awareness course.
“We recently had a child test positive, and my workplace was very understanding when my colleagues and I had to self isolate. Health and safety is a big concern at the moment, not just for staff members, but for the children and their families.
“I know that it’s hard to list what to do for every type of work place setting, but clearer, more definitive guidelines from the government would certainly be helpful. Coming from a Conservative government both nationally and locally however, I know that’s a long stretch.’’
Louise Austin is a Case Management Officer for Eastleigh Borough Council who shares an experience many young workers will have faced – starting a new job in the middle of a pandemic.
“I started work the day before the national lockdown. My first day in the office consisted of me waving at the other 4 people who were in there (from a distance of course), collecting my laptop and heading home again.
“Throughout the lockdown my work was entirely coronavirus response based. I was working with people who were vulnerable and shielding to help provide support – this was incredibly fulfilling and an area of my work I genuinely love. Getting to speak with so many different people from so many walks of life and knowing that we all had one thing in common – wanting to protect each other – was absolutely wonderful. It’s been really interesting to see how my job has developed as the pandemic does, and how people’s different needs are changing as the months progress.
“My main concerns at the moment are making sure any other new starters don’t feel isolated, and that they get to know the rest of the team and integrate well. Starting work from home in a new job is scary and often lonely. I’m also concerned about having a good work-life balance. Where the lines between work and life have become ever more blurred, it is sometimes harder to switch into a relaxed mode and not spend the evening thinking and rethinking smaller parts of the day. I don’t really know what the future holds, but I’m hopeful.”
If you are under 27 and a UNISON member in the South East, get in touch and tell us your story.