Last reviewed 2 August 2022

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), Britain’s equality and human rights regulator, has published a report into the treatment and experiences of lower-paid ethnic minority workers in health and social care, particularly during the Covid-19 pandemic.

According to the EHRC, there has been very little research on the experiences of lower-paid support staff in the NHS and frontline care workers; the inquiry was conducted to remedy this.

The reason the EHRC became involved was because, before the pandemic, it had voiced long-standing concerns about racial inequalities across many aspects of society. The pandemic highlighted these inequalities, and the EHRC wanted to identify the causes, focus on issues facing frontline workers and reduce any inequities found in the course of the inquiry.

The report, Experiences from Health and Social Care: The Treatment of Lower-paid Ethnic Minority Workers, highlighted how, between April 2020 and January 2022, 57% of people reported to have caught Covid-19 at work were from the health and social care sectors. “Lower-paid roles” were considered to be jobs that pay £10 per hour or less, or £10.85 in London, and the inquiry applied to the health and adult social care sectors across England, Scotland and Wales.

The areas the inquiry set out to examine included:

  • the numbers of hours worked

  • workplace policies, procedures and culture

  • the tasks allocated

  • the ability of workers to access redress

  • training and development opportunities.

It found:

  • incomplete data on lower-paid ethnic minority workers, particularly in adult social care

  • different treatment and experiences at work  

  • commissioning and outsourcing leading to poor pay and insecure work        

  • low awareness of employment rights     

  • fear of raising concerns and a lack of mechanisms to do so.

The report includes recommendations for change and additional briefings for policymakers which go into more detail on recommendations specifically for England, Scotland and Wales.