COVID risk for Black staff and other vulnerable groups

More data, more employer guidance and more advice for trade union reps

The most comprehensive data yet on inequalities in COVID risks and outcomes at population level has now been published by Public Health England.

It confirms disproportionate rates of COVID diagnosis and deaths for Black people.

Other major areas of disparity include age; sex; geography; deprivation levels; occupation; co-morbidities and obesity.

The study comes as NHS Employers (England) have updated their guidance on risk assessment  and risk reduction for NHS staff in vulnerable groups, and the Welsh government has published its workforce risk assessment tool.

There is a critical role for union reps across the UK in working with employers to ensure that

  • risks are addressed effectively and meaningfully
  • appropriate action is taken to support staff to work safely
  • employers properly listen to the issues and concerns staff have about their circumstances

UNISON’s initial advice for branches included urgent actions to support Black staff and shape employer approaches to risk assessment.

To help take work on risk further, the NHS trade unions have together produced Trade union principles for risk assessment. The principles focus on Black staff and other vulnerable workers, making clear that identifying and addressing risk factors for these groups will create safer working benefits for all.

The principles also encourage union reps to look more widely at evidence about workplace culture where you are – what does that say about the experiences of Black staff and how might that affect their safety?

For branches in England the Workforce Race Equality Standard (WRES) is an important source of evidence covering areas like disproportionate bullying and harassment and subjection to disciplinary proceedings experienced by Black staff.

You can look up the WRES results for your own employer here

The latest WRES overview report was published earlier this Spring, before the outbreak of COVID-19.

Finally, you may be interested in this recorded webinar with Black staff network leads discussing COVID risks and concerns.

 Download the NHS trade union principles of risk assessment

Read the Public Health England review of disparities in COVID-19 risk and outcomes

Dealing with risk assessments for at-risk staff video podcast

Sara Gorton (National Secretary for Health) discusses the drive to get NHS organisations to complete risk assessments for their at-risk staff with Zoeta Manning (MiP link officer), Deirdre Costigan (National Officer, Disability Equality) and Alan Lofthouse (National Officer in Health).

To support this video podcast, we’ve also pulled together some national resources to help you navigate the advice and guidance available to branches and employers. If you need further information please speak to your branch, region or contact UNISON health team

Information from UNISON

Risk assessment for Black and other Vulnerable Workers (PDF)

UNISON health group convened an expert panel to discuss systemic racism on a webinar.

Coronavirus rights at work, including for health workers

COVID-19 guidance for Black members leaflet (PDF)

Information from NHS England

Read the letter calling for action on risk assessments.

Read about supporting BAME NHS people and communities during and beyond COVID-19.

See the advice on safe working for all NHS staff through COVID-19.

Plans to ensure and promote a culture of openness and transparency during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

WRES briefing for boards and COVID-19 emergency preparedness, resilience and response membership in the NHS.

A note from Dr Nikki Kanani and Prerana Issar for all BAME colleagues working in the NHS.

Information from NHS Employers

A holistic strategic approach to putting risk assessments in wider context approach

Information from the Health and Safety Executive

Risk Assessment

Information from the National Guardian Office

NHS Workforce Race Equality Standard (WRES) team have been working collaboratively to improve the experience of BME staff across the NHS