RCN Position on Employer Responsibilities for BAME staff

The COVID-19 pandemic presents various health challenges for a wide range of communities across the UK. However, evidence has emerged of a specific and serious impact for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities. The early data suggests that disproportionately high numbers of people from BAME backgrounds are becoming seriously ill and dying from the virus.

In England, independent reviews have been established by Public Health England and other agencies investigate the reasons for this disparity. However, we also recognise the anxiety that this emergent risk may cause to BAME nurses, students and healthcare support workers and their families.

The official reviews do not displace the responsibilities of employers to comply fully with their health and safety obligations and wider duty of care to, regardless of their race or nationality.

During the pandemic, the Royal College of Nursing expects that all health and care employers should comply with their duty of care to their workers in full by: 

  • Carrying out comprehensive and continuous equality analysis including impact assessments on staffing issues relating to COVID-19, including reviewing the allocation of shifts, and access to PPE and to fit testing for BAME workers. 
  • Updating their risk assessment processes to include ethnicity in their vulnerable and at-risk groups. Managers should be encouraged to have supportive and confidential conversations with BAME staff about any underlying health conditions.
  • Ensuring that all staff are aware of the support and counselling services that available to them to maintain and promote wellbeing. 
  • Ensuring that, where available, staff are able to self-refer to occupational health service for advice and support.
  • Ensuring that staff know how to raise concerns about their safety including completion of incident forms, are not subject to detriment for raising concerns and that concerns are acted on. 
  • Including BAME staff in the priority list for testing during the first five days of symptoms. 
  • Confirming that staff will receive full pay during any COVID-19 related absences, including periods when individuals are self-isolating, shielding off sick for COVID-19 related reasons.
  • Ensure that all BAME staff who may need to use a FFP3 mask are supported to be FIT-tested as soon as possible and given the training and information to ensure safe donning and doffing of protective equipment.
  • Ensure that you comply with the working time regulations and ensure that staff have adequate rest breaks during and between shifts.
  • Ensure that they have the correct processes in place to maintain an accurate register of staff deaths.

All RCN members should contact RCN Direct if they believe that their health and safety is being compromised or placed at risk. Additionally, members should contact RCN Member Support Services in order to access services such as counselling support.