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  • 1 in 11 (9%) BME workers told the TUC they their usual working hours were reduced during the pandemic, compared to 1 in 33 (3%) white workers
  • Union body says BME workers are facing the “double whammy” of losing working hours and their jobs at a far greater rate than white workers
  • TUC calls on ministers to act now to tackle the structural discrimination in our jobs market

Black and minority ethnic (BME) workers are three times more likely than white workers to have lost working hours during the pandemic, says a new TUC poll published today (Friday).

The survey – carried out for the TUC by Britain Thinks – found that around 1 in 11 (9%) BME workers had their normal 35-48 hours a week cut back during the Covid-19 pandemic. Only 1 in 33 (3%) white workers said their working hours were reduced.

Nearly 1 in 8 (13%) BME workers told the TUC that their hours were cut without them requesting it in the last 12 months, compared to 1 in 11 (9%) of white workers. And 1 in 4 (25%) BME workers said they were now working between 1-24 hours a week, compared to 1 in 5 (20%) white workers.

The poll also found that:

  • Second jobs: BME workers were nearly twice as likely to say they’d had to take on more than one job in the last 12 months than white workers. Around 1 in 14 (7%) BME workers had more than one job during the past year, compared to just 1 in 25 (4%) white workers.
  • Pressure to go into work: 1 in 5 (20%) BME respondents told the TUC they were worried that if they did not go into their workplace this would impact negatively on their status at work, for example in terms of their job security or their chances of getting a pay rise. Around 1 in 7 (14%) white respondents shared this concern.

BME unemployment

Previous TUC analysis revealed that the unemployment rate for BME workers has risen three times as fast as the unemployment rate for white workers during the pandemic.

The BME unemployment rate shot up from 6.3% to 8.9% between the first quarter of 2020 and the first quarter of 2021, an increase of 41%. Over the same period the unemployment rate for white workers rose from 3.6% to 4.1%, an increase of 14%.

Around 1 in 11 (8.9%) BME workers are now unemployed, compared to 1 in 25 (4.1%) of white workers.

“Double whammy”

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Covid-19 has shone a spotlight on the structural discrimination that has been hidden in our jobs market for too long.

“BME workers have shouldered the burden of the pandemic. They’ve faced the double whammy of being more likely to be working in industries that have been hit hardest by unemployment. And it’s now clear they’ve also have been more likely than white workers to lose hours – and therefore pay. Too many BME workers are having to take on second jobs now just to make ends meet.

“We know that BME workers are more likely to be in low-paid, insecure work with less employment rights. Through the pandemic, many have paid for this discrimination by losing hours, jobs and wages. Tragically, many more have paid with their lives.

“Enough is enough. Everyone deserves a decent job, with decent pay and with decent terms and conditions. Ministers must address this inequality once and for all and challenge the structural discrimination that holds BME workers back at every level of the labour market.”

Chair of the TUC anti-racism task force and NASUWT General Secretary Patrick Roach said: “This latest evidence comes on top of other data showing that Black workers are bearing the brunt of precarious employment, zero-hours contracts and employers using ‘fire and rehire’ to drive down wages.

“With rates of unemployment rising fastest amongst Black workers, we need to see urgent action from the Government to tackle these inequalities and secure a recovery that works for everyone.

“It will also be important that employers consider and are held to account for how their decisions are impacting on Black and White workers.”

Government must act

The TUC is calling on government to:

  • Introduce mandatory ethnicity pay gap reporting and make employers publish action plans to ensure fair wages for BME workers in the workplace.
  • Ban zero-hours contracts and strengthen the rights of insecure workers – which will have a disproportionate impact on BME workers.
  • Publish all the equality impact assessments related to its response to Covid-19 and be transparent about how it considers BME communities in policy decisions.
Editors note

- The BritainThinks online survey was conducted between the 13-21 May 2021 with a sample of 2,134 workers in England and Wales – nationally representative according to ONS Labour Force Survey Data. 
- Last Friday the TUC along with the CBI and EHRC called for mandatory ethnicity pay gap reporting:
- Previous TUC analysis of official statistics found that BME unemployment is rising three times as fast as white unemployment:
- Anti-racism task force: The TUC has launched an anti-racism task force, chaired by NASUWT General Secretary Dr Patrick Roach, to tackle the structural racism with the labour market – and wider society. The task force will lead the trade union movement’s renewed campaign against racism at work. It will engage with Black workers across the UK to hear about their experiences. And it will produce recommendations on tackling structural racism in the UK, in workplaces and in unions themselves.
- The Trades Union Congress (TUC) exists to make the working world a better place for everyone. We bring together the 5.5 million working people who make up our 48 member unions. We support unions to grow and thrive, and we stand up for everyone who works for a living.


TUC press office  
020 7467 1248 

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