• Tuesday, May 28, 2024


Pandemic-time health and social care ‘heroes’ faced abuse, investigation finds

The Equality and Human Rights Commission has said the extent of the abuse could be underestimated as the employers were not collecting relevant data.

Representational Image (Photo by Russell Cheyne – WPA Pool/Getty Images)

By: Aparna Sreevalsan

FRONTLINE low-paid health and care workers who were branded heroes during the Covid-19 pandemic suffered racism, harassment and bullying, Britain’s top equality body has uncovered.

According to the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC),

*It may have underestimated the extent of the abuse because employers were not collecting relevant data.

* More black and Asian workers were on zero-hour contracts and therefore more vulnerable and open to harassment and discrimination with little defence.

* And that more needed to be done by employers to protect workers whose role was often critical in maintaining standards and stopping people from becoming seriously ill and having to be admitted to hospital in some cases.

Baroness Kishwer Faulkner, chairwoman of the EHRC, said, “Health and social care staff, particularly those on the frontline, are among the heroes of the Covid pandemic.

“They faced significant pressure and risk in keeping us safe. Our inquiry found evidence that low-paid ethnic minority staff also faced discrimination and mistreatment in their workplaces.”

She added that a lack of data and appropriate monitoring allowed managers to exploit vulnerable workers who had little option but to put up with being treated unfairly.

“A lack of good data may allow discrimination to pass unnoticed.

“Our inquiry findings and recommendations will help equality and human rights law to be upheld. We will work with the government, the NHS, local authorities, regulators, and care providers to ensure that the working conditions of lower-paid workers in this sector are improved and that their crucial contribution to our health and our economy is recognised,” Faulkner said.

The EHRC launched the inquiry in November 2020, looking into the experiences of workers from a variety of ethnic minorities who worked in lower-paid positions in the health and adult social care sectors in England, Scotland, and Wales.

Healthcare assistants, porters, cleaners, security personnel, and residential, home, and personal care workers were among the positions they held.

Hours worked, workplace culture, workplace training and procedures, and other work-related factors that may have contributed to their risk of developing Covid-19 were also investigated.

The 67-page analysis, which was released on Thursday (9), reveals a paucity of data regarding these workers, which is linked to the outsourced organisations’ lack of responsibility and accountability for them.

Between December 2020 and May 2021, evidence for the investigation was gathered, with a focus on the experiences of ethnic minority employees from January 2019 to May 2021.

Available workforce statistics from the health and social care sectors were examined, as well as novel statistical analyses of existing quantitative datasets.

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