BAME is an acronym which stands for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic, and is generally defined as all ethnic groups except White ethnic groups.
Evidence suggests that BAME people are disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, in terms of mortality (death rates) and morbidity (health, susceptibility to infection). People from BAME backgrounds have a higher susceptibility to infection and death.1 The reasons for are not yet fully understood but hypotheses point to a variety of possible factors, including BAME people disproportionately undertaking ‘front line’ or high risk roles, and people from BAME communities having higher rates of underlying health conditions, such as type 2 diabetes and hypertension, which themselves are related to social and economic inequities in our society, all of which may increase this group’s vulnerability and risk.
This evidence may contribute to anxiety and uncertainty among staff which managers should be aware and sensitive of. These factors are considered when people complete the individual health assessment.
Gender is complicated, and means different things to different people, but generally refers to the socially and culturally constructed characteristics of ‘men’ and ‘women’. The research relating to gender therefore focuses on those individuals who identify as a ‘man’ or a ‘woman’. Sex is assigned to people at birth based on their physical characteristics, but more generally refers to the underlying biological profile of a person (relating to genetics, physiology, hormone levels and other factors). We generally talk about sex in the binary sense in terms of ‘males’ and ‘females’.
Currently there is lack of COVID-related research on vulnerability of exposure for non-binary, trans and gender non-conforming people. Therefore, here we focus on the risk factors associated with the binary categories of men and women (gender) and male and female (sex).
The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 are similar between men and women globally. However, men are more likely to need intensive care and have a higher morbidity rate. In England men account for 43% of confirmed cases but 57% of confirmed deaths. As of July 2020, there have been no conclusive studies explaining how sex and/or gender might explain why men have worse outcomes of COVID-19 infection than women but both may have an impact.
As of July 2020, gender and sex (in themselves) do not appear to be risk factors; however, when they intersect with other factors (e.g. age, health, certain ethnicities), they can become significant. For example:
- Age – in the UK across all age groups, with the exception of the 85 years and over group, the number of deaths involving COVID-19 has been highest in men.
- Ethnicity – compared to previous years up to June 2020, all-cause mortality is almost 4 times higher than expected among Black males, almost 3 times higher in Asian males and almost 2 times higher in White males. Among females, deaths have been almost 3 times higher in Black, Mixed and Other Ethnicity females, and 2.4 times higher in Asian females compared with 1.6 times in White females.
Gender and sex may also have an effect on the need for support and adjustments to mitigate risks associated with immediate family. As of 14 June 2020, 2.7 million women (59%) and 1.8 million men (41%) have started caring for relatives who are older, disabled or living with a physical or mental illness.8 Similarly, women are more likely to be responsible for most childcare and domestic labour; a University of Sussex study recognised that "many dads have stepped up and undertaken more childcare over this period, but findings show that women are still overwhelmingly taking on the role of primary carer, and with schools closed, primary educator."
These factors are considered when people complete the individual health assessment.
Pregnant staff who are employed on a clinical basis are advised to consult specific guidance developed by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, Royal College of Midwives and Faculty of Occupational Medicine.
This pandemic may result in an increased level of anxiety and other mental health problems in the general population. There is increasing evidence that this is likely to be even greater for pregnant people as pregnancy represents a period of additional uncertainty. Specifically, these anxieties are likely to revolve around: a) COVID-19 itself, b) the impact of social isolation resulting in reduced support from wider family and friends, c) the potential of reduced household finances and d) major changes in antenatal and other NHS care.10
The uncertainty surrounding Covid-19 and the impact on pregnancy can cause anxiety for the person and their family members.
These factors are considered when people complete the individual health assessment.
This covers people who identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, or questioning/queer.
People who identify as LGBTQ+ may not always be ‘out’ – that is, have made their identity known to family, friends and/or work colleagues. In addition, it should be noted that just because one is 'out' to one group (i.e. friends), it does not mean that an individual is automatically out to all: 'coming out' is a personal, private choice and is motivated by a variety of factors, including but not limited to personal circumstances, context, personal safety and freedom.
Aside from the risk of contracting COVID-19, the health and wellbeing of LGBTQ+ people may be affected by the safety measures which have been implemented by the Government. Strategies such as social isolation can have a greater impact on some LGBTQ+ people due to their circumstances. Many LGBTQ+ people may find themselves confined or returning to homes where family members/friends do not know or are not accepting of their identity. This could put LGBTQ+ people at a higher risk of experiencing abuse and violence in an unsafe environment. LGBTQ+ people are also more likely to be estranged from their family. It is important for managers to be aware of these potential impacts.
Research led by the LGBT Foundation 2020 indicates:
- 42% would like to access support for their mental health at this time. This rises to 66% of BAME LGBT people, 48% of disabled LGBT people, 57% of trans people and 60% of non-binary people
- 25% would like support to reduce their isolation, such as a befriending service.
- 18% are concerned that this situation is going to lead to substance or alcohol misuse or trigger a relapse. This rises to 20% of BAME LGBT people, 23% of disabled people, 22% of trans people and 24% of non-binary people.
- Social isolation means that many are trapped inside with abusive partners or family members. Reports of domestic abuse have risen since safety measures were implemented. As LGBT people are more likely to experience domestic abuse this rise is likely to be disproportionately affecting LGBT people. Since the new safety measures came into effect, LGBT Foundation has seen a 30% increase in domestic abuse/violence calls to our helpline.
According to the Equality Act 2010, you are disabled if you have a physical or mental impairment that has a ‘substantial’ and ‘long-term’ negative effect on your ability to do normal daily activities. However, identifying as disabled, or having a disability, means different things to different people.
Queen Mary wants to support all staff who either self-identify as disabled or have a mental or physical health condition or impairment. This could include staff who have experiences of:
- physical or sensory impairments (such as hearing and visual impairments, MS, mobility challenges);
- neurodiversity and/or learning differences (such as autism, ADHD, dyslexia);
- mental health conditions (such as depression, anxiety, OCD);
- other health/medical conditions (such as HIV, epilepsy, cancer).
It is important to recognise that disabled people are a very diverse group of individuals, with differing needs, and no experience of being disabled is the same. Not all disabilities are visible or permanent. Where appropriate, Queen Mary will take an individual and tailored approach to supporting our disabled community see our disability pages for more information.
Managers should be aware of the additional challenges that disabled staff may be experiencing during this time and ensure they are supportive and sensitive when discussing staff members risk assessments, ensuring these conversations are led by the individual and their needs.
There are some underlying health issues (e.g. some cancers, diabetes, asthma, heart disease, lung conditions, chronic kidney and liver diseases etc.) which may increase the risk of possible infection and death.
Experiences of mental health conditions can also pose further challenges for many staff during this pandemic. Please see the section below on mental health.
Employers are legally obliged to make reasonable adjustments to ensure that disabled people, or people with physical or mental health conditions, are not substantially disadvantaged when applying for or carrying out a job. More details on Reasonable Adjustments, including guidance for managers and disabled staff, can be found here.
Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood. Individuals' experiences of mental health are very different. Common mental health conditions include depression, anxiety and OCD.
Evidence suggests that Covid-19 has had significant impact on people with pre-existing mental health conditions and has also increased anxiety among those with and without previous experiences of mental health conditions. For example, many people have experienced feelings of loneliness and isolation during lockdown, as well as anxieties and fears about their and their loved ones health, finances, their futures. Some people are also experiencing anxiety relating to leaving their homes and/or transitioning back to our 'new normal' way of working, living and socialising.
Managers should be aware that Covid-19 may have had significant impact of staff mental health and should be sensitive to this in supporting staff in their return to work.
Employers are legally obliged to make reasonable adjustments to ensure that disabled people, or people with physical or mental health conditions, are not substantially disadvantaged when applying for or carrying out a job. More details on Reasonable adjustments, including guidance for managers and disabled staff, can be found here.
From 5 November 2020, people in England who have been identified as clinically extremely vulnerable are advised to follow updated Government guidance.
These new shielding measures will apply nationally for 4 weeks up to 2 December. At the end of this period, the Government will look to return to a regional approach and will issue further guidance at that time.
Staff who are extremely clinically extremely vulnerable are strongly advised to work from home. If they cannot work from home, they should not attend work for this period of restrictions and managers can offer them reasonable alternative work such as other duties that fit their skill set and grade as well as work on appraisals, engaging in remote training to assist with their continuous professional development, refresher Health and Safety training etc.
The formal updated shielding notification that staff have received from the Government can act as evidence for Queen Mary that the staff member has been advised to follow shielding guidance and should not work outside of their home for the period stated in the letter.
Those with caring responsibilities are anyone, including children and adults, who look after and/or provide care to a family member, child, partner or friend who needs help in relation to illness/health, frailty, disability, a mental health condition or an addiction. This also includes caring for children. The care they give is unpaid.
Many carers do not consider themselves as carers. It can be difficult for carers to see their caring role as separate from the relationship they have with the person for whom they care, whether that relationship is as a parent, child, sibling, partner, or a friend.
New figures released in Carers Week (8th – 14th June 2020) show an estimated 4.5 million people in the UK have become unpaid carers as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. This is on top of the 9.1 million unpaid carers who were already caring before the outbreak, bringing the total to 13.6 million.
Managers should be aware of this increase in caring responsibilities brought on by the pandemic and support their staff accordingly. If caring for a parent, child, sibling, partner, family member or friend who is more susceptible to falling ill with Covid-19 or a child who cannot yet return to school, or school of wrap around school care not being as available as prior to the pandemic, managers should try where possible to mitigate against these risks by discussing possible supportive steps/measures with staff.
School and College attendance is mandatory from the start of the autumn term and therefore parents will have a legal duty to send their children into School or College otherwise they may face a fine. If a parent is not able to send their child back to School or College due to the fact that they are self-isolating or have received public health advice that their child cannot return to School then Queen Mary will continue to support parents and carers in line with our existing guidance set out at the start of lockdown in March 2020.
Some parents may have concerns about the reliability of transport to enable them to travel from work to collect their children at the end of their day as well as the fact that they may not have access to wrap around childcare such as after school clubs. Flexibility regarding working patterns should be considered for staff in these circumstances and Queen Mary will continue to support parents and carers in line with our existing guidance from March 2020.
Please be as reasonable and as flexible as you can be. Speak to staff individually to understand their personal circumstances and their concerns; give them reassurance where you can around flexing hours, staggering shift patterns or being able to continue to work from home if possible. Our health and safety colleagues have developed guidance on travelling to and from work safely which you should read and refer your employee to.
Discuss the cycle to work scheme to support colleagues who may be concerned with using public transport.
If staff are travelling to work by car they should ensure that they have the correct parking permit. Changes of the Car Parking Charge Scheme come into place from Monday 7th September. If they currently have a parking permit, which expired on 31 July 2020, they will be required to apply for a new ‘Authorisation to Park’ Permit. Full details of the new scheme, including who can apply, can be found on Connected.
For those with the correct permit and deciding to car share the following safety measures should be taken:
- Minimise the number of staff travelling together in one vehicle
- Have fixed travel partners
- Increase ventilation in the vehicle
- Avoid sitting face-to-face.
Our health and safety colleagues have developed guidance on travelling to and from work safely which you should read and also refer your employee to.
The information below is subject to government foreign travel advice, please review the current travel restriction.
If a staff member is considering travelling abroad during their annual leave they should discuss this with you. This is because in some circumstances a self-isolation/quarantine period may be required for anyone re-entering the UK, for further information see the government website
For those travelling to countries where it had already been known that a quarantine period would be required at the time of booking or prior to the start of the holiday:
This should be discussed with your staff member, as far in advance of their travel date as possible, so you can ascertain whether they can work productively from home for the quarantine period on their return to the UK. If this is not possible, they will be required to use either annual leave or take unpaid leave to cover the period of quarantine in addition to the annual leave required to cover their trip abroad.
For those travelling to countries where a quarantine period is announced after the start of the holiday:
You should be aware in advance of your staff members travel date and which country they are travelling to, so that you are alerted to the fact that they may have to quarantine on their return should the UK government advice change whilst they are abroad.
If a quarantine restriction is subsequently imposed, they will need to work from home for the required period of quarantine. This may involve undertaking duties which are not their normal duties (particularly for those who are currently campus-based). They will continue to be paid their normal salary during the quarantine period.
Please see the H&S guidance on what to do if you/a colleague experience coronavirus symptoms.
During this time, if staff are well enough to work remotely then they should do so. If staff are not able to work remotely due to the nature of their role then managers can offer them reasonable alternative remote work such as work on appraisals, engaging in remote training to assist with their continuing professional development, refresher Health and Safety training etc.
If the staff member tests negative for Coronovirus then they can return to work if they feel well enough to do so. If they do not feel well enough to return to work, then they should follow the usual sickness absence notification procedure and inform their manager.
If the staff member tests positive for Coronovirus then they should not come into work and should self-isolate. More information, including the length of self-isolation, is available on the UK government website. Staff should inform their manager of the test result and contact staff health.
Whilst a staff member is arranging to have a test, waiting for the results of their test and self-isolating they will receive full pay from Queen Mary.
If a member of staff has been contacted by the NHS Test and Trace team to advise them that they have been in contact with someone who has been tested positive for Coronovirus and that they now have to self-isolate for either 10 or 14 days then Queen Mary will pay full pay for the isolation period. Your manager may ask you to provide any information you have received from NHS test and trace which advises that you are required to self-isolate.
During this time, if staff can work remotely then they should do so. If staff are not able to work remotely due to the nature of their role then managers can offer them reasonable alternative remote work such as work on appraisal objectives, engaging in remote training to assist with their continuous professional development, refresher Health and Safety training etc.
If a member of staff lives in an area where local lockdowns or restrictions are in place, managers should speak to staff and update the plans for supporting them to return to the workplace based on both the government advice on the local restrictions webpage as well as guidance issued by their local authority.
Where, due to local restrictions, staff are unable to work on campus either because a Queen Mary site is within the region of a local lockdown or a member of staff lives in an area where there is a local lockdown, Queen Mary will ensure that staff receive full pay. Managers should discuss with staff what work can be done remotely at home during this time.