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Black and minority ethnic (BME) workers have had to self-isolate at a much higher rate than white workers, according to new TUC research published today (Thursday).  

The poll, carried out by Britain Thinks, shows that more than a third (35%) of BME workers have self-isolated during the pandemic compared to a quarter (24%) of white workers.   

Feeling unsafe at work  

The TUC believes the research shows that BME workers are being put at greater risk of coronavirus exposure than white colleagues.   

While half of white workers (49%) reported that their employer had done a Covid-Secure risk assessment for their workplace, this falls to 36% for BME workers. This is despite the risk assessment being a legal requirement.   

Higher stress levels 

Working during the pandemic continues to have a negative impact on the levels of stress and anxiety of two-fifths of BME workers (38%).  

BME workers (88%) are more likely to have concerns about returning to work than white workers (78%).   

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

Unfair treatment 

Almost a third (32%) of BME workers report having experienced 3 or more forms of unfair treatment compared to a quarter of white workers.  

In addition, almost a quarter (23%) of BME workers report experiencing abuse from other members of their workplace, compared to 16% of white workers. 

TUC antiracism task force  

The findings are published today (Thursday) as the TUC’s new antiracism task force meets for the first time. It is chaired by NASUWT General Secretary Dr Patrick Roach.    

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.      

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.”    

Chair of the TUC’s anti-racism task force and NASUWT General Secretary Dr Patrick Roach said:  

“There is a hostile environment for Black workers today which means they are more likely to face discrimination in the workplace, to be in insecure jobs, and more likely to be dismissed from work. 

“And, during the pandemic we have also seen how racial discrimination has resulted in Black workers being much more likely to die at work as a result of Coronavirus. 

“As the Task Force begins its work, we will be hearing evidence from Black workers about their experiences of everyday racism in the workplace. 

“The Anti-Racism Task Force will not hesitate to call out racial injustice wherever we find it. It will bring together a strong coalition to deliver a programme of measures to root out racism and tackle racial discrimination and injustice at work.” 

Editors note

- 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. Within this, there was a boost to the audience of BAME workers (n=306). 
- Research published by the TUC in September revealed that BME workers have been over-represented in jobs with higher Covid-19 death rates: 

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