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The TUC has today (Tuesday) warned that black and minority ethnic (BME) workers have been asked to “shoulder more risk” during the pandemic, often working in insecure jobs with fewer rights at work.
  • New analysis reveals that BME people are far more likely to be in insecure and high-risk jobs 

  • TUC launches new antiracism task force to tackle the barriers and systemic racism BME people face at work 

The TUC has today (Tuesday) warned that black and minority ethnic (BME) workers have been asked to “shoulder more risk” during the pandemic, often working in insecure jobs with fewer rights at work. 

The warning comes as TUC analysis shows that BME people are far more likely to be in precarious work and in jobs with higher coronavirus mortality rates than white people, such as security guards, carers, nurses and drivers.  

Put at higher risk 

TUC analysis of official figures shows that 1 in 6 (16%) BME workers are employed on insecure terms and conditions, compared to 1 in 10 (10%) white workers. 

The TUC says this has put BME staff at higher risk of Covid-19 exposure and job loss. The union federation argues that insecure contracts make it harder for workers to: 

  • assert their rights for a safe workplace with adequate protective equipment (PPE) 

  • shield if they – or someone they live with – has a health condition that puts them at higher risk 

  • take time off for childcare responsibilities if schools or childcare providers close. 

Additional analysis shows that BME workers have been over-represented in jobs with higher Covid-19 death rates: 

  • Nearly 3 in 10 (28%) of male BME workers are employed in jobs with a higher male mortality rate, compared to less than 1 in 5 (18%) of white male workers. This makes male BME workers 57% more likely to be working in one of these occupations than white male workers.  

  • 1 in 5 (20%) of female BME workers are employed in a specific occupation with a higher female mortality rate, compared to 1 in 7 (14%) of white female workers. This makes female BME workers 48% more likely than female white workers to be employed in an occupation with a higher female mortality rate.  

Antiracism task force 

The findings are published today (Tuesday) as the TUC launches a new antiracism task force. 

A group of senior leaders from across the trade union movement and civil society will investigate the systemic discrimination BME workers face.  

The group will be engaging with BME workers about the everyday racism they experience, particularly at work, and set out that action needed to address structural discrimination and disadvantage.  

The task force, led by NASUWT General Secretary Dr Patrick Roach, will then develop an action plan for change across UK workplaces – and within unions themselves. 

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Coronavirus has exposed the huge inequalities BME women and men face at work – with many forced to shoulder greater risk during this crisis. 

“BME workers are hugely overrepresented in undervalued, low-paid and casualised jobs, with fewer rights and no sick pay. During the pandemic many BME people have paid for these poor working conditions with their lives. 

“This crisis has to be a turning point. The government must challenge the systemic racism and inequality that holds BME people back at work, and beyond. 

“And unions have a part to play. Our new antiracism task force will listen to BME people and take action to dismantle the barriers they face at work, in wider society – and in trade unions themselves.” 

Chair of the TUC’s antiracism task force and NASUWT General Secretary Dr Patrick Roach said: “Regrettably, we continue to see evidence of the searing and devastating impact of racism and racial inequality on the lives of Black workers across all sectors of the labour market and in the wider economy. 

“There is no excuse for systems and practices which hold back talent or put workers at greater risk of illness or injury because of the colour of their skin. The anti-racism task force will be unapologetic in calling out racial injustice and institutional racism wherever it exists. 

“The task force will be taking forward a wide-ranging programme of action to tackle racial discrimination and ensure fairness and decent treatment at work.” 

The TUC is calling on government to address labour market inequalities affecting BME people by: 

  • Banning zero-hours contracts and strengthen the rights of insecure workers in the employment bill this autumn 

  • Introducing mandatory ethnicity pay gap reporting and make employers publish action plans to ensure the inequality BME face workers in the workplace is tackled 

  • Investing in better jobs for the future in green industries, social care and across the public sector. 

Editors note

Notes to editors: 
- Insecure work by ethnicity   




Insecure employees 



Low paid self-employed  



Total insecure 



Proportion as insecure work 



Insecure work: The total number in ‘insecure work’ includes (1) agency, casual, seasonal and other workers, but not those on fixed – term contracts, (2) workers whose primary job is a zero-hours contract, (3) self-employed workers who are paid less than the National Living Wage (£8.72). Data on temporary workers and zero-hour workers is taken from the Labour Force Survey (LFS) (Q4 2019). Double counting has been excluded.  Low-paid self-employment: The minimum wage for adults over 25 is currently £8.72 and is also known as the National Living Wage. The number of working people aged 25 and over earning below £8.72 is 1,810,000 from a total of 3,950,000 self-employed workers in the UK. The figures come from analysis of data for 2018/19 (the most recent available) in the Family Resources Survey and were commissioned by the TUC from Landman Economics. The Family Resources Survey suggests that fewer people are self-employed than other data sources, including the LFS. 
The analysis in our PR is made up of all people in employment who identified themselves as being in the following LFS categories: Mixed/Multiple ethnic groups, Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Chinese, Any other Asian background, Black/African/Caribbean/Black British and Other ethnic group. 

The TUC uses the term Black workers to describe all workers who self-identify in these categories. Black workers is used as a description of workers who are viewed as culturally and/or intellectually inferior because they are perceived to be non-white and who often share a common history and experience of oppression and exploitation.  

 - TUC research published in July found that BME people are more likely to be working in professions with higher coronavirus mortality rates than white people, such as security guards, carers, nurses and drivers: 
BME people working in professions with higher mortality rates: 
Mortality rates from by occupation are taken from the Office for National Statistics. The proportion of BME workers is based on TUC analysis of the LFS (Q1 2020). 
- TUC ethnicity pay gap: Comparison of median pay at the TUC shows that there is a gap of 12.9% between white and BME staff pay at April 2020.  Comparison of mean pay shows a gap of 15.3% in favour of white staff. The TUC is committed to fair pay regardless of gender and race and has taken action to work towards eliminating any pay gaps: 

  • We have simple pay structures to help us avoid bias creeping in. For example, our pay scales are short, and we don’t pay bonuses or performance-related pay. We have undergone an equal pay audit which enabled us to identify and reduce other causes of gender pay inequality. 

  • We have a narrower gap between our top and bottom earners than many employers. 

  • We recognise staff trade unions and negotiate our pay and conditions with them. 

  • Women and men work at all levels of the organisation. Our most senior staff member is a woman - Frances O’Grady, our general secretary - and there are other women in our senior management team. Posts on lower grades are fairly evenly divided between women and men. 

  • We support women having children with generous maternity leave and flexible working policies. We also provide financial support for childcare. We encourage men to play a full part in parenting by offering generous paternity leave and shared parental leave. We support BME and female employees’ career progression through training and development opportunities. 

  • We have taken steps to prevent bias in recruitment wherever we can – for example, by anonymising applicants’ personal details during shortlisting and aiming to ensure ensuring every recruitment panel includes at least one woman and one BME panel member. 

In 2018, we recognised we needed to do more to make our staff profile reflect the predominantly London base of the TUC, particularly at senior grades.  We set an aspiration to fill 50% of recruited posts at more senior and regional levels with BME staff.  As part of this work, we revised and improved our recruitment processes to support, encourage and inform BME applicants. We have also provided more internal development opportunities, many of which were taken up by existing BME staff.  In the year to end of June 2020, 27% of our more senior and regional recruited posts were filled by BME staff.  

A full statement on our gender and ethnicity pay gaps can be viewed here: 

- The Trades Union Congress (TUC) exists to make the working world a better place for everyone. We bring together more than 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. 

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