The Impact of COVID-19 on Staff Working Practices in UK Horseracing
Equine Department, Hartpury University, Gloucester GL193BE, Gloucestershire, UK
SportScotland Institute of Sport, University of Stirling, Stirling FK9 4LA, UK
Sport Department, Hartpury University, Gloucester GL193BE, Gloucestershire, UK
School of Behavioural and Health Sciences, University of the Sunshine Coast, Sippy Downs QLD 4556, Australia
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Animals 2020, 10(11), 2003; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10112003
Received: 19 September 2020 / Revised: 21 October 2020 / Accepted: 28 October 2020 / Published: 30 October 2020
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Impact of COVID-19 on Animal Management and Welfare)
Although coronavirus stopped horseracing in March 2020, most staff were classified as essential workers due to equine care and continued to work throughout lockdown. The physical and psychological impact of working during lockdown is unknown, and staff stress could have negative implications for racehorse welfare. Over half of staff surveyed were still working during lockdown. Racing grooms and stud staff were more likely to be working than most sectors, due to the timing of lockdown with the racing calendar and foaling season. Administrative staff were busier during lockdown, completing additional risk assessments or paperwork. Most staff reported that workplace changes were successful in protecting health and safety, but flat racing grooms felt that work-based changes were less effective. Negative perceptions of work-based COVID-19 changes may affect the staff’s ability to complete daily tasks and thus influence the quality of care provided to horses in their charge. Trainers and part-time staff were concerned about job security, highlighting a need for further employee support structures following the pandemic. The racing industry has prioritised staff health and safety but continued reflection on staff well-being, demands and working practices will maximise staff’s ability to care for horses under their charge, and allow racing to maintain the highest standards of equine welfare.
Due to COVID-19, horseracing was required to cease all activity in March 2020; however, little is known about the pandemic’s impact on staff working practices. This study investigated the impact of COVID-19 on staff working practices during the initial lockdown phases. An online survey about working conditions during lockdown was answered by 287 participants. Chi-squared tests for independence and binary logistic regression (BLR) analysis was undertaken. A total of 53.7% (n = 154) of staff were working during lockdown. Pandemic-specific workplace changes were reported as effective by 87.8% (n = 115) of staff. Flat grooms reported workplace changes as less effective (χ2 (52, n = 131) = 92.996, p < 0.001). A total of 67.2% (n = 193) of staff were positive about job security. Trainers and grooms were significantly less likely to report jobs as secure (χ2 (52, n = 287) = 75.653, p < 0.05). The findings suggest that most of the racing industry positively received changes made by their employers to tackle the pandemic, and for staff still working during lockdown, their health and safety was prioritised. Continued development of employee support structures to promote job security and workforce stability is advised, which will minimise the disruption of staff changes on the care and welfare of the horses.