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Whitepaper 'BAME Representation in the Workplace': COVID-19 and the BAME demographic

  • Publish Date: Posted 6 months ago
  • Author: Rebekah Valero-Lee

​With top talent in short supply and competition for roles intensifying, it’s crucial that organisations around the globe understand, attract, engage and retain a skilled and diverse workforce. Failing to do so could see a business miss out on great colleagues, enhanced productivity and numerous other proven competitive advantages.

In fact, the very survival of many companies and major projects hinges on its ability to create inclusive and equal environments where a diverse team of people can truly thrive and reach their full potential.

As talent solutions specialists, we at the Morson Group have witnessed first-hand the benefits of equality, diversity and inclusion (ED&I) in business and we work in partnership with clients around the world to challenge traditional stereotypes and misconceptions to lead this conversation.

We support our clients’ ED&I commitments, strategies and core values when we are appointed to fulfil their requirement for contingent and temporary workers, by providing them with access to key management information, including spend, worker profiles, numbers and attrition rates, whilst delivering cost efficiencies and attracting talent to essential roles. Together, we are focused on achieving success by supporting clients in consciously building and retaining inclusive teams, recognising the unique value, skills and contribution that every individual brings to its workplace, and encouraging its people to be themselves – whoever they are.

Recent data analysis revealed that BAME attrition within technical sectors – aviation, construction, engineering – is double that compared to other industries. BAME workers make up almost 15 per cent (13.8%) of the audited workforce, and reasons for these individuals choosing to leave their roles, the data shows, have included experiences of discrimination. The same was true for other demographics, including LGBTQ+ and those who identify as female. To achieve our mission of creating an entirely equal and diverse workforce, these issues needed addressing.

As such, we commissioned further research to truly understand the individual pain points of workers in these industries. We asked them to be frank and completely honest in their feedback so that our clients could quickly implement changes to improve working conditions for all, then develop longer-term strategies in line with people’s issues, challenges and needs, so that within five years, workplaces in these sectors are free from insult, abuse and prejudice.

This whitepaper explores those findings.

“With 50 years’ experience in recruitment, we enable our clients to tackle their talent needs, with a diverse, equal and inclusive workforce being very much part of this labour strategy. By perfecting diversity-focused talent programmes within our own group of companies, we play a vital part in rolling these initiatives out across our client portfolio – many of whom operate in some of the least diverse sectors. This creates increasingly diverse worker populations that continue to meet business-critical needs and demands, whilst challenging status quos.

“Talent is the ultimate criteria for success. We want to ensure we are providing diverse workforces with the opportunities to aim high by working in collaboration with our clients to help create safe, friendly and supportive places to work. Ultimately, providing a working environment and recruitment service which welcomes everyone with open arms – whoever they are and whoever they want to be.” - Adrian Adair, COO at the Morson Group

COVID-19 and the BAME demographic

The past 12 months have presented significant challenges for the global population. Never in our lifetime have we all been so vastly affected by the same single source.

When very little was known about the Coronavirus – in the first months of 2020, when it initially hit our shores – there was guidance on how different demographics might be affected by the disease, but it mostly centred on age; the older you were, the more susceptible to the illness.

However, trends soon began to emerge which demonstrated that the BAME community was at higher risk of infection, serious illness and even fatality. Scientific studies aimed to distinguish whether it was a genetic disposition, but ongoing research revealed that this was largely the case because of the already widely established, deep-rooted inequalities the BAME community faces, and has faced for generations. As Public Health England described it, ‘the social and structural determinants of health disparities.’

Research revealed :

  • The highest age-standardised diagnosis rates of COVID-19 per 100,000 population were in people of Black ethnic groups (486 in females and 649 in males) and the lowest were in people of White ethnic groups (220 in females and 224 in males)

  • People of Bangladeshi ethnicity had around twice the risk of death when compared to people of White British ethnicity

  • People of Chinese, Indian, Pakistani, Other Asian, Caribbean and Other Black ethnicity had between 10 and 50 per cent higher risk of death when compared to White British

  • Death rates from COVID-19 were higher for Black and Asian ethnic groups when compared to White ethnic groups

In relation to the last point, this is the first time that existing, societal inequality has led to a higher death rate amongst the BAME community. The Government’s report stated:

“Risk of dying among those diagnosed with COVID-19 was also higher in males than females; higher in those living in the more deprived areas than those living in the least deprived; and higher in those in Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) groups than in White ethnic groups. These inequalities largely replicate existing inequalities in mortality rates in previous years, except for BAME groups, as mortality was previously higher in White ethnic groups.”

Duncan Selbie, chief executive of Public Health England, said regarding these findings:

“The insights make for humbling reading. The clear message from stakeholders was the requirement for tangible actions, provided at scale and pace, with a commitment to address the underlying factors of inequality.”

Because not only was the data highlighting that existing inequality made BAME individuals more susceptible to this deadly disease, but it showed it had the capability to exacerbate inequality even further and drive greater division in our society.

Selbie then set out a seven-point action plan, with recommendations on the steps that could be taken to mitigate the risks posed to BAME individuals in the COVID-age. Within this, was guidance for employers which stated that – at a national level – we must:

‘Accelerate the development of culturally competent occupational risk assessment tools that can be employed in a variety of occupational settings and used to reduce the risk of a worker’s exposure to and acquisition of COVID-19, especially for key workers working with a large cross section of the general public or in contact with those infected with COVID-19.’

It is unknown how long COVID-19 will be present in our lives. Whether a vaccine eradicates its existence is yet to be seen but there are claims among scientists that it is set to be part of our lives forever, even if we can immunise against its most severe effects.

This stark reality means employers of BAME individuals have an additional responsibility to ensure workers of this demographic are provided with equal, inclusive places to work where the background isn’t a determining factor of their progress and success.

When even a virus appears able to discriminate, we must empower BAME colleagues with everything they need to eradicate other inequalities from their lives. A diverse and fair working environment should be a given.

Download your copy of the full whitepaper here: