The Covid-19 crisis in the UK has demonstrated the importance of workers from the low-waged sectors, in particular, social care, healthcare settings, and those on the frontline in construction or security industries. We are now finally appreciating those long standing workers who have been on the frontline for decades caring for those in need, providing essential services, and keeping the UK economy alive.
Many of these frontline workers are from a migrant, EU citizen or Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic background (BAME), who may lack awareness of their worker and welfare rights and entitlements, and may be continuing work, or having to return to work to avoid destitution, or due to their immigration conditions. The added factor of immigration conditions or precarious immigration status including lack of status presents a greater vulnerability and an increased likelihood of being taken advantage of by unscrupulous employers, especially where they do not have recourse to public funds. Unfortunately, it is also these workers, who are at greater risk of being infected and suffering with severe symptoms of Covid-19 because of their BAME and socio-economic backgrounds.
And now, with an easing of lockdown measures, and a real lack of clarity on who can and should go back to work (bar those specifically mentioned in the Prime Minister’s speech), “We now need to stress that anyone who can’t work from home, for instance those in construction or manufacturing, should be actively encouraged to go to work.” there is a risk that some migrant workers and those from a BAME background will be forced to return to work without adequate personal protective equipment (PPE), risk assessments and proper shielding being carried out, which could in turn intensify the number of people infected by COVID-19 from these groups. This is in spite of the furlough scheme being extended, although we are aware that this does not, and will not protect all vulnerable workers.
What we are doing
We have created a survey alongside our partners Kanlungan Filipino Consortium, Migrants At Work and The 3 Million to gather the views and experiences of frontline BAME and migrant workers as the lockdown measures are eased to demonstrate any potential or existing risks, and the impact of working in a crisis on their economic, mental and physical wellbeing.