Citizens Advice Exeter reports surge in coronavirus-related employment issues

Thursday 5th November 2020         

Citizens Advice Exeter is reporting a 19.5% rise in clients seeking help with employment issues, as the coronavirus pandemic impacts on workers and employers in the city.

In a new a research report from Citizens Advice Exeter, ‘We Can Work it Out’, the leading local advice charity highlights how certain groups were being particularly affected by the economic impact of the first lockdown and difficulties in returning to work.

Among those facing the most stressful decisions were people who were expected to return to work despite a lack of childcare, people who had been shielding and were then expected to go back to work, and people who needed to work but live with family members who were shielding.

The charity has also seen cases of discrimination against pregnant women, older workers and those with long term health conditions.

Steve Barriball, Citizens Advice Exeter chief executive, said: “During the first lockdown, we were seeing many people who were trapped between a rock and a hard place in these unprecedented times. These problems are likely to become more acute in the coming weeks as we enter a further period of restrictions.

“If, as predicted, Devon’s economy shrinks by eight per cent this year as a result of the pandemic, there will inevitably be widespread job losses. It’s vital that when making these tough decisions employers are aware of the correct process to follow and that the most vulnerable people are protected from discrimination.

“The benefits system also needs to reflect the fact that the job market has changed, to provide a safety net for people in these difficult times.”

In the last 6 months, Citizens Advice Exeter helped 2,735 clients with a total of 8,877 individual issues.

The charity’s staff and volunteers swiftly moved to home working, providing free advice to clients, with the help of grants from Devon Community Foundation, Exeter City Council, Devon County Council and the national lottery Community Fund.

Steve continued: “As well as helping people to find a way through the problems they face, the other side of our work is using the evidence we see every day to research and campaign on the issues affecting people in our society.

“By highlighting the experiences of our clients, we hope this report will help to inform the debate about how people can be supported through the coronavirus crisis and the resulting recession. One thing we have found is that dialogue between employers and employees is key to finding solutions where possible.

“While we don’t claim to have all the answers, we want to encourage conversations about the best way to navigate some of the major challenges which lie ahead.”

Read the full report here: We Can Work it Out

To help inform the debate, Citizens Advice Exeter is keen to hear from employers and employees about the issues they are facing as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

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