In August 2020, the Migrants’ Rights Network (‘MRN’) alongside the Kanlungan Filipino Consortium (‘KFC’), the3million and Migrants at Work (MAW’) launched a survey aimed at workers who are either migrants or people of colour, who work in the South of England, London or the West Midlands, in order to understand the lived experience of those who have continued to work throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Four key industries were targeted, namely health and social care, the construction industry, security guards and delivery drivers.
At the time of writing, 65,520 people have died in the UK from coronavirus and of those who have sadly lost their lives (taking into account geography, socio-economic characteristics and pre-existing health conditions), a disproportionate number are people of colour.
The objective of this survey was to gain direct understanding of how existing structural inequalities have been exacerbated during this time of national crisis within workplaces across the country. In addition to surveying respondents, case study interviews were also conducted to obtain qualitative data about the experience of those on the frontline.
Our Key Findings were:
- 76% of our respondents said that they felt they were putting their own health at risk by continuing to work during the COVID-19 pandemic, with 54% of those believing that they were more likely to contract COVID-19 in their line of work
- Despite concerns in relation to their own health, 38% of respondents had the additional pressure of being concerned that they would lose their job if they didn’t go to work
- The impact on those without recourse to public funds (‘NRPF’) has been more severe, for example 14% of those with NRPF have been unable to pay their rent or mortgage on time compared to 2% of those with recourse to public funds being unable to
- 27% of those surveyed have experienced overt racist abuse whilst working during the COVID-19 pandemic
- Of those subject to racist abuse, only 5% reported it to a manager/supervisor and 3% reported it to a Trade Union representative
The Government should:
- Abolish the NRPF condition on migrant workers that prevents them from gaining access to support in times of crisis
- Conduct a full review of the effects of the hostile environment policy, as its effects are evidenced within this report, in addition to the policy having recently been found in breach of equalities law
- Increase the national minimum wage to the living wage
- Increase statutory sick pay, which is currently well below the European average
- Increase the frequency and number of COVID-19 ‘spot checks’ undertaken by the Health and Safety Executive (‘HSE’) and make the findings of those checks publicly available
- Require regulators such as the Security Industry Authority (‘SIA’) to align their reporting system with that of the Health and Safety Executive (‘HSE’)
- Be required to publicly report on what accountability mechanisms they have in place for incidents of racism and discrimination
- Undertake risk assessments that specifically address the vulnerability of people of colour and make the findings publicly available
- Provide COVID-19 specific health and safety training to all frontline workers, particularly people of colour
- Have their accreditation removed for serious and persistent failures in the management of COVID-19 related health and safety (for example the revocation of SIA licences)
- Be required to publicise any incident reports sent to the HSE
- Provide written reasons to employees who are not offered the opportunity to work from home or be furloughed