As the Coronavirus continues to disrupt the international economy, employers are now seeking ways in which employees can safely return to work.
However, evidence suggests that the virus does not affect the population equally; there are pockets of society who suffer exacerbated ill effects due to belonging to specific ethnic and racial groups.
BAME stands for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic. The acronym refers to all ethnic groups other than White ethnic groups. The Coronavirus has been disproportionately affecting BAME communities in respect of risks and outcomes and, consequently, has been increasing existing social and health inequalities.
According to the Office of National Statistics, those from the BAME community are up to four times more likely to die from Coronavirus than those from White ethnic groups.
A ‘rapid review’ was published on 2 June 2020, which found that the highest rates of Coronavirus diagnosis was amongst black ethnic minority groups. When compared to White British people, Bangladeshi people are twice as likely to die from Coronavirus and Chinese, Indian, other Asian, Caribbean and other Black ethnicities have a 10-50% higher risk of death.
In June 2020, Public Health England (PHE) released a report called ‘Beyond the Data’ which looked to understand the impact of Coronavirus on BAME groups. It found that longstanding inequalities are exacerbated by Coronavirus. It also found increased risk of death and complications for BAME people.
Although the reasons are complex and varied, an increased risk occurs for a number of reasons, including housing challenges and racism in the workplace and in a healthcare settings, the latter resulting in a reduced likeliness to seek medical help when needed. Greater fear of morbidity also increases reluctance to seek medical help.
The PHE report also found that BAME people are:
Furthermore, those from the BAME community are more likely to suffer from health conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure, which then place them in higher risk categories for Coronavirus.
As economic life slowly returns to ‘normal’, employers are putting into place health and safety compliant arrangements for the return to working. Please click here for our guide to ‘life after lockdown’ at work, which includes a summary of your health and safety obligations and tips on how to comply.
In brief, you are required to ensure that, as far as reasonably practicable, you provide a safe system of work for your employees. You must also ensure that this system is implemented (with this aspect of health and safety obligations being the part which is most commonly overlooked by employers).
Taking into account what is now known about the specific risks associated with the return to work for BAME staff, how should you respond?
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