BME women almost twice as likely to be on zero-hours contracts as white men

The TUC and Race on the agenda (ROTA) Last week warned that structural racism in the labour market is trapping Black and minority ethnic (BME) workers on low pay and in insecure work.

The warning comes as the TUC and ROTA release a joint report which reveals how BME workers are hugely overrepresented among those workers on zero-hours contracts.

According to the new analysis, around one in six zero-hours contract workers are BME, even though BME workers make up just one in nine workers overall.

BME women are the most disproportionately affected group, followed by BME men.

BME women are almost twice as likely to be on zero-hours contracts as white men. And they are almost one and a half times more likely to be on zero-hours contracts compared to white women.

The TUC and ROTA say zero-hours contracts are “the most egregious example of one-sided flexibility at work”, handing the employer total control over their workers’ hours and earning power.

The new polling also shows half of BME insecure workers have been allocated a shift at less than a day’s notice, and almost half of BME insecure workers have had shifts cancelled with less than a day to go.

This instability means workers never know how much they will earn, and their income is subject to the whims of managers. It makes it hard for workers to plan their lives, look after their children and get to medical appointments. 

The TUC and ROTA say the pandemic has shone a light on the inequalities faced by BME workers and must spur government action to tackle structural racism in the labour market – which was missing from the recommendations of the recent Sewell Report.

BME workers are over-represented in insecure jobs, which have limited rights, endemic low pay and face disproportionately high Covid-19 mortality rates. Recent TUC research found workers in more insecure jobs are twice as likely to die from Covid-19 as those in less insecure occupations.

In addition, BME workers have borne the brunt of the economic downturn that has accompanied the pandemic.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:  

“No matter your race or background, everyone deserves to be treated fairly at work.

“But the pandemic has exposed beyond any doubt the huge inequalities BME people face at work.

“Too many BME workers are stuck on zero-hours contracts, and face a triple whammy of low pay, limited rights, and an increased risk of dying from the virus.

“This is what structural racism at work looks like – BME workers getting trapped in jobs with the worst pay and the worst conditions, struggling to pay the bills and feed their families.

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