Terms of reference: inquiry into racial inequality in health and social care workplaces

Race inequalities have been exposed by COVID-19. The inquiry will look at the experiences and treatment of ethnic minority workers in lower paid roles in the health and social care sectors and seek to document wider work issues highlighted by the pandemic.

In accordance with paragraph 2 of Schedule 2 to the Equality Act 2006.

Statutory inquiry under Section 16 and Schedule 2 of the Equality Act 2006.


  1. The inquiry will focus on the lowest paid roles in the health and adult social care sectors (those that are directly employed as well as those that are outsourced) across England, Scotland and Wales. Examples include but are not limited to: care assistants and care workers; personal assistants; porters and cleaners. We may examine similar roles in other sectors.  
  2. This inquiry will seek to understand how certain ethnic groups working in lower paid roles have been more impacted by COVID-19 and what work related factors contributed to this. We want to hear about a broad range of experiences, to identify specific issues for particular ethnic groups, and, where applicable, to understand the impact of immigration status.
  3. The inquiry will look at the experiences of ethnic minority workers starting from the 1 January 2019 to date.


  1. The inquiry will look at the working conditions of ethnic minority workers in lower paid roles in the health and social care sectors and examine these alongside their employment status (including whether they are in insecure or precarious roles). We will look at a range of factors including:
    • hours of work and breaks
    • access to essential information and equipment
    • workplace policies and practices, including grievance and sickness policies as well as informal policies and practices that impact on the work culture
    • statutory employment rights, including but not limited to eligibility for sick pay
    • workplace experience, including but not limited to allocation of tasks and whether an individual feels that they can speak up at work to raise concerns and whether those concerns are heard and actioned
    • opportunities for training and progression
    • knowledge of workplace rights and access to support and redress including but not limited to: managers or direct reports, occupational health, staff groups, complaints processes, and trade union support
  2. The inquiry will consider whether race, including any structural factors, contributed to any difference in treatment and experience of ethnic minority workers.
  3. The inquiry will consider whether immigration status contributed to any difference in treatment and experience of ethnic minority workers.
  4. The inquiry will look at any difference in treatment and experience within the same ethnic group due to other protected characteristics.

Sources of information

  1. The Commission will gather evidence from health and social care workers, employers, providers, commissioners and other key stakeholders including academics and experts, unions, advice and support organisations.
  2. The Commission may decide to use its powers under the 2006 Act to obtain the required evidence if necessary (Sch 2, Paragraphs 9-14, Equality Act 2006). During the course of an inquiry the Commission may give notice under this paragraph to compel any person to provide information or produce documents in his possession, or to give oral evidence.
  3. The inquiry will consider existing reports that are deemed relevant to the scope of the inquiry, and may include consideration of the reasons why recommendations have not been implemented and the impact of this.
  4. The Commission will publish a report of its findings and may make recommendations in accordance with Schedule 2 paragraph 16 of the 2006 Act.


  1. For the purposes of these terms of reference the following definitions apply:
    • The 2006 Act’ means the Equality Act 2006
    • The 2010 Act’ means the Equality Act 2010
    • ‘ethnic minority’ means:
      • Mixed or Multiple ethnic groups
      • Asian or Asian British groups
      • Black or African or Caribbean or Black British groups
      • White ethnic groups including Polish, Gypsy, Scottish Gypsy Travellers and Irish Travellers, and Other ethnic groups
      • For the purposes of this inquiry ethnic minority does not include the following White ethnic groups: English,  Welsh, Scottish, Northern Irish, Irish or British.
    • ‘social care’ means any formal residential, nursing, domiciliary and day care adult social care, be that long-term or short-term, irrespective of who provides it (public, third sector, private) or how it is funded (including care funded by direct payments). It does not include informal  /unpaid care.
    • ‘lower paid’: in this inquiry our focus is on roles paying up to about £10 per hour. This includes: NHS pay bands 1 and 2. This is just above the UK Real Living Wage, which is £9.30 per hour and allows a comparison across lower paid health and social care jobs.
    • precarious employment / work is work with no guaranteed hours (zero hours contracts) or no certainty of hours, that is also low-paid.
    • insecure employment / work  is temporary employment or agency/bank work


To include a review of existing relevant evidence, a further collection of qualitative evidence on ethnic minority workers’ lived experiences, an open call for evidence, and interviews with key stakeholders.

Communications about this inquiry

Any communication about this inquiry may be sent to RI@equalityhumanrights.com.

Last updated: 16 Jul 2021