Last reviewed 21 June 2022

An Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) study has warned that social care data gaps may mask discrimination against staff from ethnic minority communities in Britain.

Data was provided by Skills for Care and collected as part of a study assessing the treatment and experiences of lower-paid ethnic minority workers in health and social care, particularly during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The research found that care workers from ethnic minority groups were more likely to experience insecure working conditions than their white British colleagues, with ethnic minority staff in the independent care sector more likely to be on zero-hours contracts.

The report also highlighted that there was generally much less robust data available across social care than the NHS, including in relation to racial discrimination, and fewer support networks available to workers.

Although acknowledging that the discrepancy around the use of zero-hours contracts was probably for “complex and multifaceted reasons” and that some workers found their flexibility helpful, the report stated that 71% of ethnic minority home care workers in the independent sector were on zero-hours contracts as of March 2020 compared with 59% of white British workers.

The report said the “fragmented” nature of an underfunded social care sector, a large number of providers and the use of zero-hours contracts and agency staff made it more difficult for workers to be aware of their rights. It said this had a greater impact on ethnic minority workers who “are more likely to work in the independent care sector while being on zero-hours contracts”.

Researchers heard accounts from lower-paid ethnic minority workers across the health and social care sectors that they were less likely to raise concerns at work for fear of losing their job.

The EHRC called on social care employers and commissioners to:

  • ensure leaders work to develop a culture where concerns can be shared freely in the confidence that action will follow

  • work with trade unions and employer bodies to ensure lower-paid workers are able to share feedback and concerns

  • ensure mechanisms are in place to address barriers that prevent lower-paid ethnic minority and migrant workers from speaking up.

The EHRC also said the UK Government and its Scottish and Welsh counterparts should work with the health and social care sectors to mandate training for middle managers who handle workforce complaints, including concerns raised on grounds of race.

More information on the Experiences from Health and Social Care: The Treatment of Lower-paid Ethnic Minority Workers study is available from the EHRC website.