BAME workers are disproportionately affected by coronavirus – what should businesses be doing?

Recent research and media reports have highlighted that people from Black, Asian and Minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds are at greater risk of becoming seriously ill with Covid-19.

A recent report in The Guardian found that while BAME workers represent 44% of the NHS workforce, they accounted for 68% of the 57 NHS staff known to have died with the virus at the time of publishing. Every one of the 14 doctors reported to have died at that point were from an ethnic minority.

This is also being looked into in greater detail by the government, NHS England and Public Health England (PHE) who are investigating further to identify why a disproportionate number of BAME people are dying and hopefully introduce measures to address this.

But what does this mean for businesses? Businesses should be supporting all their staff through Covid-19 but other areas to address could include:

  • Demonstrating support for BAME staff

As an organisation it is important to recognise that all employees may be affected by bereavement but there is a greater probability for employees from BAME backgrounds and those who have BAME members within their family. 

This can be recognised by internal communications and information being sent to your teams but also sending appropriate supportive information which may help, eg organisations who support people through bereavement, the impact on loss for children/young people, reminding people of employee assistance schemes/helplines/mental health first aiders if you have them, providing webinars supporting people through bereavement or any other internal support that may be available.

  • Positively using BAME networks

If your organisation has a BAME employee network, the network could offer additional support via network wellbeing calls. A buddy system would also be helpful to BAME employees as others in the network may also be facing similar losses within their family. Some people prefer to talk to someone they feel that understands them and the impact on their communities so this network would be hugely beneficial to them.

  • Senior management engagement

The voice of senior management or a senior BAME champion acknowledging that Covid-19 is impacting people in many ways such as those living alone, parents and carers as well as the significant impact on BAME communities can go a long way. This highlights that the organisation is taking the issue seriously and wants to support its diverse teams.

Most of all, businesses need to make all staff, including BAME staff, aware that they are an organisation that wants to support them through Covid-19 and are willing to address issues that arise through this evolving situation.

Community Campaigners have joined forces to launch a bereavement fund to support members of the black and minority ethnic (BAME) community who have lost loved ones to COVID-19. The Majonzi COVID-19 Bereavement Fund was launched by activist and campaigner Patrick Vernon in collaboration with social enterprise The Ubele Initiative. More information can be found here and you can donate to the cause here.

Other helpful links for businesses to share with their employees

Cruse Bereavement Care

Young Minds – Dealing with loss

Mind - Bereavement

NHS – Finding bereavement support services in your area


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Every piece of content we create is correct on the date it’s published but please don’t rely on it as legal advice. If you’d like to speak to us about your own legal requirements, please contact one of our expert lawyers.

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