A new analysis by the Trades Union Congress (TUC) reveals that BME workers (Black and Minority Ethnic) have seen a much steeper fall in employment rates than their White counterparts. 

TUC research reveals that workers who are BME (Black and Minority Ethnic) have faced a higher rate of unemployment during the pandemic.

It has been shown that whilst one in 22 White employees have had to deal with unemployment, this number rises to one in 12 for BME workers.

From September 2019 to September 2020, the employment levels for workers from BME backgrounds fell by 5.3 per cent. Conversely, for White workers, this drop in employment was only 0.2 per cent, around 26 times less.

The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) predicted that unemployment levels would hit 7.5 per cent in 2021. However, the unemployment rate for BME workers has already surpassed this figure. By Q3 of 2020, BME unemployment had reached 8.5 per cent, showing that this group has been particularly hit by COVID-19 redundancies.

When analysing these figures more, the TUC found that BME women had both the highest rate of unemployment (8.8 per cent) and the lowest rate of employment (62.5 per cent). This was in contrast to White women who had an employment rate of 73.4 per cent during the same time frame.

BME women within the arts and entertainment sector were particularly impacted with the number employed falling by almost half (44 per cent).

Part-time workers from BME backgrounds were also disproportionately affected by unemployment as this employment figure fell by 15 per cent. This was not counteracted by a rise in full-time work as the number of BME workers in full-time work has also fallen by 49,000.

Resultingly, the TUC have called on the Government to take action against systemic and institutional racism. The body called on the Government to:

  • Publish an action plan to tackle the inequalities that BME people face, including in work, health, education and justice
  • Introduce mandatory ethnicity pay gap reporting and make employers publish action plans to ensure fair treatment for BME workers in the workplace
  • Ban zero-hours contracts, and strengthen the rights of insecure workers
  • Publish all the equality impact assessments related to its response to Covid-19 and be fully transparent about how it considers BME communities in its policy decisions

Frances O’Grady, TUC General Secretary, said:

BME workers have borne the brunt of the economic impact of this pandemic. In every industry where jobs have gone, BME people have been more likely to be made unemployed.

In some sectors like hospitality, retail and the arts, BME employment has literally plummeted. And when BME workers have held on to their jobs, we know that they are more likely to be working in low-paid, insecure jobs that put them at greater risk from the virus.

This pandemic has held up a mirror to discrimination in our labour market. The time for excuses and delays is over. Ministers must challenge the systemic racism and inequality that holds back BME people at work.

Dr Patrick Roach, Chair of the TUC’s anti-racism taskforce, said:

This disturbing evidence showing that black workers have lost their jobs at a far greater rate during the Covid-19 pandemic should be a wake-up call for the government.

We have seen evidence of widening inequality during the pandemic – both because of the virus and because of the impact of the Government’s emergency measures. During previous economic downturns, BME workers have been ‘first out and last in’.

The Government needs to address the causes and effects of structural racism and set out a national recovery plan that works for everyone.

*This research was taken from the TUC’s analysis ‘Jobs and Recovery monitor – BME workers’ which was published on the 20th January 2021.





Monica Sharma is an English Literature graduate from the University of Warwick. As Editor for HRreview, her particular interests in HR include issues concerning diversity, employment law and wellbeing in the workplace. Alongside this, she has written for student publications in both England and Canada. Monica has also presented her academic work concerning the relationship between legal systems, sexual harassment and racism at a university conference at the University of Western Ontario, Canada.