RETAIL workers in Dorset are more reliant on public transport for commuting than those in some traditionally office-based jobs, new figures reveal.

Though more people are returning to work, they are still being advised to avoid public transport if they can, with face coverings mandatory.

The Resolution Foundation think tank has called on the Chancellor to provide more support to sectors like retail across the country which will be heavily affected by social distancing.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics show seven per cent of Dorset workers in the retail trade used public transport to commute in 2018.

This is compared to three per cent of those who work in some traditionally office-based roles such as information and communication, finance and insurance, real estate, public administration, and professional, scientific and technical activities.

A fifth of retail workers across England and Wales commuted by public transport in 2018, compared to around a quarter of those in some office jobs.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies said public transport use is much more concentrated at particular times than other forms of commuting.

Peter Levell, senior research economist at the IFS, said: "Social distancing measures will put strain on public transport capacity for some time to come.

“This means that workers who cannot easily work from home, and who would normally commute using public transport, are going to face challenges getting to work even if the sectors that employ them are allowed to reopen.”

He said this group includes a lot of younger workers, who have already been “disproportionately hit economically” by the effects of lockdown.

Just nine per cent of retail staff in Dorset worked from home, compared to 21 per cent of employees in more traditional office-based jobs.

The Resolution Foundation said city centres, where many shops are located, have been worst-hit by the Covid-induced economic crisis because of social distancing.

Nye Cominetti, senior economist at the think tank, said: “These important public health restrictions are likely to remain in place in some form until a vaccine is found.

“So the Chancellor should use his Summer Update next week to target support at those sectors that will continue to be heavily affected by social distancing.”

The GMB union said the Government should cover the cost of all workers having to pay to use transport and buy their own face coverings.

Rehana Azam, national secretary, said: “Many workers fighting this outbreak have no option but to use public transport.

"Workers have to pay their fare, then pay for the PPE they are required to wear.

"It's impossible to rule out the increased exposure to the virus while travelling on public transport.”

She also called on the Government to continue providing free parking for health and social care workers.

A Department for Transport spokeswoman said: “Throughout the pandemic we have spent billions to ensure essential services can continue and are now increasing services as more people return to work.

“We continue to invest to improve public transport for passengers, with record spending on improving our rail and bus networks.”