Not Essential: Hundreds of Thousands of People Are Still Being Made to Go to Work

Novara Media, March 2020

Despite Boris Johnson announcing a UK lockdown on Monday night, many people working in non-essential jobs are still required to go into work – as packed tube trains in London attest. 

The new government instructions do not specify that only key workers should continue to go to work – saying instead that workers can travel to and from any job that “absolutely cannot be done from home”. The guidelines have sparked outrage and confusion with the hashtag #notessential trending on Twitter, as people share stories of being required to attend jobs that are not only far from essential, but also mostly poorly paid.

The government regards key workers as those whose work is essential to the COVID-19 response. The list includes workers in health and social care, education and childcare, key public services, government, food production, public safety and national security, transport, and utilities, communication and financial services. However, in the absence of clearer directives – both in terms of what is essential work, and who is still allowed to travel to work – many companies are either classifying themselves as essential, or still requiring workers to come in as their non-essential work cannot be done from home.

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