COVID-19 Survey – Summary of Results

Like never before, the safety, jobs and financial security of translators and interpreters are on the line in face of the COVID-19 crisis. Interpreters standing side by side with other frontline workers are equally vulnerable to exposure to COVID-19.

Employers and worksites have a responsibility to provide a safe work environment during the pandemic by implementing reasonable and practicable procedures and policies.

TI nationally were surveyed from late May to early July – by which time they, agencies and public institutions could be expected to have adapted to the restrictions and requirements created under COVID-19.

This is what you told us

The largest concentration of respondents was in Victoria followed by NSW Over 85%of respondents were interpreters.

The majority of respondents describe themselves as casually employed or freelance interpreters (combination of agency and their own clients).

The overwhelming majority of respondents said their workload had decreased or greatly decreased during COVID.

  • Respondents primarily work for private agencies, followed by Commonwealth agencies (TIS, DHS) then state government agencies (eg. MNSW, ITC SA) · Specialist Auslan/Deaf interpreting providers were only 4.2% of respondents · Specialist Aboriginal interpreting providers 0%
  • Just over 10% of respondents said they source their own clients.
  • Interestingly almost 70% of respondents said they had completed f2f assignments during the pandemic
  • Almost 90% did not believe they encountered a member of the public infected by COVID-19 on a f2f assignment

Health and safety procedures related to COVID-19 for interpreters implemented by the primary supplier (LSP) for face-to-face assignments during the pandemic

10-20% of respondents indicated that minimal procedures were implemented by agencies. Overall agencies are shown to have not actively engaged in implementing safety for face to face assignments.

Health and safety procedures related to COVID-19 for interpreters implemented by public institutions for face-to-face assignments during the pandemic

As far as public institutions go, most to all were seen to implement most of the health and safety procedures listed in this survey eg. visible signage, temperature checks, security staff, physical distancing, reduction of visitor number, cordoned off areas and PPE.

PPE received the lowest score and surprisingly, so did temperature checks.

Responses about whether the primary supplier’s response or lack of due to COVID-19 was putting them at risk were fairly equally distributed between yes, no, unsure – at around and average of 30% in each category.

Changes to workload

Telephone job offers definitely increased during the pandemic and a small increase in video was reported along with a significant decrease in on-site work for interpreters. This correlates with the majority of respondents reporting that they were earning less than before the pandemic.

The roughly 7% who said they were earning more attributed it to the following:

  • More telephone interpreting
  • Increased demand in the mental health sector
  • JobKeeper – “because it is more than interpreting pays in my state”

Those earning less attribute the financial loss to fewer on-site bookings and increased cancellations.

Other COVID-19 impacts on translators & interpreters

  • Increased income insecurity
  • Some said they saw almost all of their work disappear
  • Decreased work in particular sectors, eg. health and education
  • Increased costs to implement remote interpreting facilities
  • Stress due to reduced workload
  • Increased difficulty in performing interpreting f2f where distancing was implemented
  • New OH&S issues arising from remote interpreting that are not addressed by agencies
  • Concerns about exposure to COVID-19 on the job
  • More effort required to ensure interpreter services are utilised
  • Less work because of concerns related distancing including travel and public transport
  • Fear of public transport therefore increased use of the car and associated costs · “Too sedentary at home”
  • More administrative duties (this would apply to eg. in-house hospital interpreters)
  • One translator reported more translations.

At least one respondent felt they had become more proficient in telephone interpreting! Despite that most respondents reported receiving significantly fewer jobs than prior the pandemic, almost an equivalent number said they did not intend to leave the profession although almost 75% said that the response to COVID-19 has contributed towards thoughts of leaving the profession.