From actor to key worker: Sheffield man navigates jobs during the Coronavirus pandemic

Written by Sahana Venugopal

As the UK’s Coronavirus lockdown stretches through April, an aspiring actor unable to find work started his new job as a home delivery driver. 

Jamie Frith, 28, was born and raised in Sheffield and described himself as coming from a working class background.

A football fan and guitarist, Mr Frith was trying to build his acting career when WHO declared the virus a pandemic.

He said: “The coronavirus has caused film and television work to come to a halt so I am unable to earn money.”

Mr Frith first worked at Tesco stacking shelves before hearing about driving jobs with the Iceland supermarket chain. He applied online and started work as a home delivery driver last week.

Mr Frith said: “So far the job has been enjoyable because it has given me the ability to travel around with some purpose and I feel like I am helping people who are unable to get to the shops. It is also keeping my mind and body active, and is not stressful or demanding at the moment. However, I would prefer there to be more hours available so I can increase my income.”

Shoppers across the country have turned to supermarkets’ online portals to buy their groceries, following weeks of panic buying by customers, and government officials urging people to stay at home,

In response to the new demand, supermarket chains such as Tesco, Morrisons, and Aldi have announced plans to recruit thousands of new employees.

The UK government has also listed those involved in food production, processing, distribution, sale, and delivery as key workers. 

On its company website, Iceland’s description of an ideal driver, read: “We are looking for a real self-starter, someone who enjoys juggling a hectic workload, puts customers first and provides the best service to make a difference, despite the daily challenges you can expect on the road.”

According to the website, home delivery drivers in Sheffield were paid £9.69 per hour and also expected to help out in other store roles when needed.

Mr Frith was on a zero hour contract, so though a shift is usually five hours long, his work times can change each week. 

As a driver, he also discovered that each order came with its own challenges. 

Mr Frith explained: “One customer had ordered eight crates worth of groceries and lived in a flat on the third floor with no lift, but I managed to take the items in only two trips. I probably should have done it more safely in four trips.

“Although I liked the challenge of being able to test my strength and endurance, I was slightly concerned about the two-hour window we are given.”

He added customers could open their gate if possible, when they were expecting a grocery delivery, and that the company could make loading and unloading the vans easier by modifying the racks so the crates moved quickly. 

Thinking of life after the pandemic, Mr Frith said: “I plan to continue my acting career or apply for an office job to earn some more money that will help me achieve my life plans of buying a house, travelling the world and attempting a career in film acting or music.”

Written by Sahana Venugopal

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