Ethnic disparities in health & social care workers’ exposure, protection, and clinical management of the COVID-19 pandemic in the UK

Publication type

Journal Article


Publication date

June 1, 2022


This paper examines determinants of ethnic disparities in workplace risks of COVID-19 among health and social care workers (HCWs) in the UK. This was undertaken to inform public health policy in the management of COVID-19 relating to health and social care provision. A cross-sectional survey was administered in July–August 2020 (n = 456) to elicit HCWs’ experiences of COVID-19 management in the workplace and their perceptions of exposure, personal protection against infection, involvement in local clinical management, and other workplace hazards. Findings suggest minority ethnic HCWs were twice as likely as White HCWs to be in a patient-facing role (OR = 2.14, 95% CI:1.21; 3.78, P < 0.01) and twice as likely (63% vs 39%) to be caring for COVID-19 positive patients (OR = 2.68, 95% CI: 1.77; 4.06, P < 0.01). Those in nursing, were three times as likely to be redeployed to a COVID-19 care setting (OR = 3.33, 95%CI: 1.23; 9.02, P= 0.02). Minority ethnic HCWs within lower- and mid-level roles carried a higher burden of frontline clinical management of COVID-19 positive patients than their White counterparts. This study found evidence of ethnic disparities across several workplace hazards, with increased exposure to and less protection against infection, more responsibility for the clinical management of infection, and evidence of systemic racial bias in the disproportionate redeployment of minority ethnic nursing staff to COVID-19 areas. An NHS-wide review is required to assess procedural fairness, ensure safe practices now, and to avert future crises.

Published in

Critical Public Health

Volume and page numbers

Volume: 32 , p.68 -81






Open Access

© 2021 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.



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