Research shows that workers who are Black or Minority Ethnic have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic in multiple ways. 

Research released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and Trades Union Congress (TUC) reveals that BME workers (Black, Minority Ethnic) have suffered a “triple whammy” of threats, including in areas such as mental health, income and life expectancy.

According to the new statistics, Minority Ethnic employees have faced a significant worsening of mental health during the pandemic.

In particular, when analysing figures from 2019 until April 2020, over a third of people (36 per cent) who come from an Indian background were more likely to report a persistent or increased loss of sleep due to stress and more likely to face self-reported mental health difficulties. This was in comparison to around a quarter (23 per cent) of White British respondents.

Additionally, in terms of finance, over a quarter (27 per cent) of people from a Black, African, Carribean or Black British background stated that they were finding it very difficult or quite difficult to get by financially during the first lockdown.

Those of Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Chinese or Other Asian Ethnicities were also more likely than the White British ethnic group to have negative perceptions of their future financial situation in April 2020.

However, this has now been compounded by recent TUC research which also shows that BME workers may have been put at a higher risk for catching COVID-19.

Around a third of BME workers (35 per cent) were required to self-isolate in comparison to only a quarter of White workers.

In addition, people from a BME background were less likely to report that their organisation had conducted a Covid-secure risk assessment with only over a third (36 per cent) stating this. However, almost half of White employees (49 per cent) stated that their organisation took this precaution.

The TUC claims that this means BME workers are also being put at a higher risk of catching COVID-19.

This has also impacted the mental health of BME workers with almost four in 10 (38 per cent) stating working during the pandemic has had a negative impact on their levels of stress and anxiety. This group is also more likely to have concerns (88 per cent) about returning to the workplace in comparison to White workers (78 per cent).

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:

This government has been careless of the impact of coronavirus on BME lives.

BME workers are more likely to be exposed to the virus, less likely to work in Covid-Secure workplaces, and therefore more likely to be plunged into hardship if they have to self-isolate.

BME workers – and all workers – should be entitled to decent sick pay when they have to self-isolate, and to safe workplaces.

The government should act to rid the UK of the low wage insecure jobs that keep many BME workers in poverty and put them at higher risk from the virus. And it should set out a real commitment to ending systemic racism and discrimination.

In addition, when commenting on the ONS statistics, Frances O’Grady continued:

BME workers have faced a triple whammy of threats during the pandemic.

BME workers are more likely be in low-paid, insecure jobs, where they have been more exposed to coronavirus and more likely to die.  Today we learned that BME workers’ mental health has suffered the most during the Covid-19 outbreak. The pandemic has exposed the structural racism of the UK’s economy yet again. It is past time for the government to act.

*These statistics were taken from ONS’ report ‘Why have Black and South Asian people been hit the hardest by COVID-19?’ which was published in December 2020. The TUC statistics were obtained from TUC research conducted by BritainThinks. The BritainThinks online survey was conducted between the 19th and 29th November 2020 with a sample of 2231 workers in England and Wales – nationally representative according to ONS Labour Force Survey Data.

Monica Sharma is an English Literature graduate from the University of Warwick. As Editor for HRreview, her particular interests in HR include issues concerning diversity, employment law and wellbeing in the workplace. Alongside this, she has written for student publications in both England and Canada. Monica has also presented her academic work concerning the relationship between legal systems, sexual harassment and racism at a university conference at the University of Western Ontario, Canada.