Almost one in 10 BME workers have reported having their hours reduced since the start of the pandemic.

New research by the Trades Union Congress (TUC) shows that Black and minority ethnic workers are three times more likely than white workers to have lost working hours during the pandemic.

When questioned further, one in 11 BME workers (9 per cent) had their normal 35-48 hours a week cut back during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This contrasts against the number of white workers who had the same experience – only one in 33 (3 per cent).

In addition to this, a quarter of BME staff (25 per cent)  said they were now working between 1-24 hours a week, compared to only a fifth (20 per cent) of white workers.

Black and minority ethnic workers were also twice as likely to report taking on more than two jobs over the past year.

Around 1 in 14 (7 per cent) BME workers had more than one job during the past year whilst only 4 per cent of white workers had to take on multiple jobs.

Furthermore, BME workers were more likely to feel pressured to return to work despite ongoing restrictions.

A fifth felt that, if they did not return to work, this would negatively impact their job status at work – whether in terms of job security, pay rises or promotions.

This was less of a concern for white workers – with only one in seven (14 per cent) feeling this way.

This data builds on previous research from the TUC which showed that unemployment among BME (Black, Minority Ethnic) workers has been rising at three times the rate of their white counterparts.

As such, the TUC have called on the Government to act by:

  • Introducing mandatory ethnicity pay gap reporting and making employers publish action plans
  • Banning zero-hours contracts and strengthen the rights of insecure workers
  • Publishing all the equality impact assessments related to its response to Covid-19

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady, spoke of the “double whammy” faced by BME workers during the pandemic:

BME workers have shouldered the burden of the pandemic. They’ve faced the double whammy of being more likely to be working in industries that have been hit hardest by unemployment. And it’s now clear they’ve also have been more likely than white workers to lose hours – and therefore pay. Too many BME workers are having to take on second jobs now just to make ends meet.

We know that BME workers are more likely to be in low-paid, insecure work with less employment rights. Through the pandemic, many have paid for this discrimination by losing hours, jobs and wages. Tragically, many more have paid with their lives.

Enough is enough. Everyone deserves a decent job, with decent pay and with decent terms and conditions. Ministers must address this inequality once and for all and challenge the structural discrimination that holds BME workers back at every level of the labour market.

Chair of the TUC anti-racism task force and NASUWT General Secretary Patrick Roach expressed the importance of employers being “held to account for how their decisions are impacting on Black and White workers.”

*This research was collated by the TUC through a BritainThinks survey. The BritainThinks online survey was conducted between the 13-21 May 2021 with a sample of 2,134 workers in England and Wales – nationally representative according to ONS Labour Force Survey Data.





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.