Inquiry into racial inequality in health and social care workplaces

Our action

We carried out an inquiry to assess the treatment and experiences of lower-paid ethnic minority workers in health and social care, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic.

'Lower-paid roles' are jobs that pay £10 per hour or less (£10.85 in London).

What this covers

We spoke to people working in the health and adult social care sectors across England, Scotland and Wales.

We also gathered evidence from race equality organisations, charities, inspectorates, trade unions, employer bodies, and health and social care organisations (including care provider organisations). We engaged directly with a range of government departments and arm’s-length bodies.

We commissioned a rapid review of existing evidence on the work experiences and outcomes of ethnic minority workers in health and social care. We also commissioned qualitative research to understand workers’ experiences.

Research reports associated with this inquiry are available on request by contacting

Our inquiry covered England, Scotland and Wales, and took into account the different context of the health and social care systems operating in each nation.

We set out to examine:

  • the numbers of hours worked
  • workplace policies, procedures and culture
  • the tasks allocated
  • the ability of workers to access redress
  • training and development opportunities

Read the full terms of reference

Why we are involved

Before the pandemic, we voiced our longstanding concerns about racial inequalities across many aspects of society. The pandemic has highlighted these inequalities. We wanted to use our powers to identify the causes of this, focusing on the workplace factors facing frontline workers, and to reduce any inequalities we found in the course of our inquiry.

Inquiries are one of our powers under the Equality Act. They can help us to find out more about equality or human rights in a particular sector or about a specific issue.

The result

We found:

  • incomplete data on lower-paid ethnic minority workers, particularly in adult social care
  • different treatment and experiences at work  
  • commissioning and outsourcing leading to poor pay and insecure work        
  • low awareness of employment rights     
  • fear of raising concerns and a lack of mechanisms to do so        

We have published a report about our findings, including our recommendations for change.

We have also produced additional briefings for policymakers which go into further detail on what we want to see specifically in England, Scotland and Wales.

Our recommendations for change are aimed at governments, local authorities, NHS providers, and health and social care regulators.

They should take urgent action to recognise and address the issues raised in our report and improve the experiences of all lower-paid workers in health and social care, including those from ethnic minority backgrounds.

The recommendations we have made will also provide insight for other sectors.

Help and advice

Individuals who need information, advice and support on discrimination and human rights issues can contact the Equality Advisory and Support Service.

Last updated: 09 Jun 2022