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COVID-19 and BAME workers inquiry

Community
Community
8th July 2020

Community inputs to review of impact of COVID-19 on BAME workers

Community has shared our findings and recommendations on the impact of COVID-19 on BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) workers with a Labour Party inquiry. The inquiry is chaired by Baroness Doreen Lawrence OBE, a long-time campaigner on anti-racism and a member of Community. Through our survey and conversations with members, we’ve been asking our BAME members to share their experiences and tell us what they need in their workplaces. Our findings and research into best practice, are now being shared to help inform this important inquiry.

We’re proud of our partnership with Baroness Lawrence and of the great work she does in her role as Race Relations Adviser to the Labour Party. We hope that the findings of this review will be used to hold the government to account and to drive meaningful change that improves the lives of BAME workers.

Many BAME workers are economically vulnerable 

Our research found that 50% of BAME respondents had seen an impact on their finances due to the pandemic compared to 33% of non-BAME respondents. This indicates that BAME workers are more likely to be financially vulnerable as a result of the crisis, and potentially less able to refuse work if for example, they are asked to self-isolate due to track and trace.

Risk assessments

We told the inquiry that our members don’t want to see blanket decisions being made by employers based on ethnicity (which is potentially discriminatory). We believe that managers should hold 1-1 discussions with employees to conduct individualised risk assessments.

These should be combined with workplace level risk assessments, which are widely shared with employees and trade unions, so that all workers understand the risks in their place of work. These risk assessments should include equality impact assessments, or if this isn’t possible, at the very least, explicitly reference BAME groups.

Take Protective Measures

We were clear that steps must be taken to protect BAME workers where risks are identified. Such changes include, where needed:

  • adjustments to roles
  • financial support for those who are sick or asked to self-isolate
  • continuing to offer furlough
  • strict enforcement of health and safety procedures.

Implement the findings of the Public Health England (PHE) Inquiry

The PHE report’s recommendations include:

  • better data collection
  • working more closely with BAME communities to understand their needs
  • Improving the service the NHS gives to BAME people and ensuring that it can understand, communicate with and effectively interact with people across cultures.

Focus on workplaces

Management prejudice and institutional racism harm BAME people at work. This affects BAME workers both today, in relation to COVID-19, and longer term, with effects on earnings power and career prospects. We recommended that employers work with trade unions to stamp out institutional racism and to put the right monitoring in place to allow clear action plans to increase race equality within our workplaces.

Next steps

As we await the outcome of the inquiry, we remain committed to ensuring the safety of BAME workers in all our workplaces. Since it became clear that BAME workers are disproportionately affected by COVID-19, Community has been working hard to understand how this problem affects our members and what can be done to help. As Roy Rickhuss shared back in June, we’ve asked all our recognised employers to consult with workers identified as most at risk and take action to make workplaces safer.

Please get in touch if you have any thoughts or questions. You can email us at equalities@community-tu.org