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). The reasons for this 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. For more information see the Public Health England report section 4.
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 Covid-19 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).
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. 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 Covid-19 Assessment.
For the latest advice on Covid-19 and pregnancy, see government guidance this includes specific guidance for healthcare workers.
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) changes in antenatal and other NHS care.
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 Covid-19 Assessment
The Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologist have produced key messages, and further questions and answers on Covid-19 vaccines, pregnancy and breastfeeding.
Is Covid-19 vaccination safe and effective in pregnant women?
The large clinical trials which showed that Covid-19 vaccines are safe and effective did not include pregnant women. This means there is limited information about the effects of Covid-19 vaccination in pregnancy. A very small number of women became pregnant after they received the vaccine in a trial. There was no sign of problems, but the numbers are too small to be certain.
If a pregnant member of staff is eligible for and has been offered a Covid-19 vaccine, the decision whether to have the vaccination in pregnancy is their choice.
For more detailed information please see questions and answers from Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologist.
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 (e.g. 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 their 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 two experiences of being disabled are 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 a staff member’s 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 due to Covid-19.
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 own and their loved ones’ health, finances, and 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 a significant impact on 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 long term 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 5th January – 31st March 2021, people in England who were identified as clinically extremely vulnerable were advised to follow the national lockdown Government guidance and strongly advised to work from home.
If staff need support to work at home or in the workplace they can apply for Access to Work. Access to Work will provide support for the disability or health condition -related extra costs of working that are beyond standard reasonable adjustments that Queen Mary must provide.
Shielding has now formally ended. All staff are required to complete an individual health assessment prior to returning to campus, and Occupational Health will then advise if additional precautions are appropriate for individual staff. In the event that Occupational Health advise that a member of staff should continue to work from home and if they are unable to carry out their role remotely, 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.
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.
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 wrap around school care not being available due to the pandemic, managers should try where possible to mitigate against these risks by discussing possible supportive steps/measures with staff.
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 or school-holiday 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.
School and College attendance has been mandatory from 8th March 2021 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.
Please be as reasonable and as flexible as you can be, while also acknowledging that staff are now required to start returning to campus. Speak to staff individually to understand their personal circumstances and their concerns; give them reassurance where you can around flexing hours or staggering shift patterns.
Occupational Health will provide advice for those who have specific health issues which have an impact on how someone travels to work. Our health and safety colleagues have developed guidance on travelling to and from work safely which you should read and refer your employee to.
If appropriate, discuss the cycle to work scheme to support colleagues who may be concerned about using public transport.
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.
If staff are travelling to work by car they should ensure that they have the correct parking permit. September 2020 saw the Introduction of the new Car Parking Permit Scheme. If staff had 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 Security’s dedicated page.
For those with the correct permit and deciding to car share please follow the safety measures in the H&S guidance.
The information below is subject to government foreign travel advice, please review the current travel restrictions.
Under the current UK Covid-19 restrictions (as at April 2021), people must stay at home and it is illegal to travel abroad for holidays. People can only travel unless they have a legally permitted reason to do so.
Please see the H&S guidance on what to do if you/a colleague experience covid-19 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 Covid-19 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 Covid-19 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 tested positive for Covid-19 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.
The longer-term future of how we work is being considered through a New Ways of Working project. This is a complex piece of work and requires a period of discussion, consultation and stakeholder engagement.