Ethnic minority workers three times more likely to have hours cut during Covid, poll finds

Union warns of ‘double whammy’ as those from ethnic minority backgrounds hit by fewer hours and higher unemployment than their white counterparts

Ethnic minority workers have been three times more likely than their white counterparts to have their hours reduced since the start of the pandemic, a survey has found.

A poll of 2,000 workers in England and Wales, conducted for the TUC by Britain Thinks, found that nearly one in 10 ethnic minority workers (9 per cent) reported that their usual hours of between 35 and 48 hours a week had been reduced during the pandemic. This compared to just 3 per cent of white workers.

A quarter (25 per cent) of ethnic minority workers said they were now working between one and 24 hours a week, compared to a fifth (20 per cent) of white workers.

Ethnic minority workers were also more likely than white workers to have their hours cut without them requesting it (12 and 9 per cent respectively), the poll found.

Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the TUC, said ethnic minority workers had been hit with a “double whammy” during the pandemic, being both more likely to be working in sectors hardest hit by unemployment, and more likely than white workers to lose hours.

“We know that BME workers are more likely to be in low-paid, insecure work with fewer employment rights. Through the pandemic, many have paid for this discrimination by losing hours, jobs and wages,” said O’Grady.

Get more HR and employment law news like this delivered straight to your inbox every day – sign up to People Management’s PM Daily newsletter

The survey also highlighted a number of other inequalities faced by ethnic minority workers: for example, they were nearly twice as likely as white workers to report having to take on more than one job in the past year (7 and 4 per cent respectively).

Similarly, one in five (20 per cent) ethnic minority workers said they felt pressured to go to work because they might be negatively affected if they did not – for example their job security could worsen or they might miss out on a promotion. In comparison, 14 per cent of white respondents felt this way.

Dr Patrick Roach, chair of the TUC’s anti-racism task force, said this latest evidence came on top of other data showing black workers were “bearing the brunt of precarious employment”.

“With rates of unemployment rising fastest among black workers, we need to see urgent action from the government to tackle these inequalities and secure a recovery that works for everyone,” he said.

Previous TUC analysis showed that the unemployment rate for ethnic minority workers has risen three times faster than that for white workers: almost 9 per cent of ethnic minority workers were unemployed in the first quarter of this year, compared to 6 per cent in the first quarter of 2020 – an increase of 41 per cent.

In comparison, the percentage of white workers who were unemployed increased just 14 per cent from 3.6 to 4.1 per cent over the same period.

In May this year, the Office for Budget Responsibility forecast that the unemployment peak for all workers would hit more than 6 per cent. However, the TUC noted that the number of ethnic minority people out of work already exceeded this worst-case scenario.