Steps to safeguard the health of the many Black and Minority Ethnic staff in the NHS are central to a “Blueprint for return” drawn up by 17 NHS unions last month, setting out an agreed joint series of demands to ensure a safe and secure return to more normal working in the NHS.

The focus is on safety of staff and patients, and ensuring that the NHS is properly resourced to meet the current and future demands placed on it. The Blueprint lists nine demands as the basis for negotiations with every NHS trust and employer.

  • Staff to be protected with sufficient suitable PPE.
  • Proper risk assessments to be carried out for all staff – (this requires a significant change in most trusts from the latest figures last week showing only a minority of BAME staff have been risk assessed). The assessments must have access to all information on every risk factor, including ethnicity, and proper training for the managers who will conduct them.
  • Unlimited access to testing and rapid results for both staff and patients/clients, so that resumed services can stay virus free for staff and patients.
  • Extension of the current Covid-19 pay arrangements so that staff get paid properly for all the hours they work
  • Employers to make sure that staff get a proper work/life balance (by recording and controlling excess hours, reviewing long and rotating shifts, enforcing working time regulations and encouraging staff to take rest breaks and annual leave).
  • “Rapid establishment of safe staffing levels” (making use of additional capacity from the Bring Back Staff initiative).
  • Staff to be informed about the support available to those most affected by the impact of the virus and encouraged to ask for help if they need it.
  • Employers to facilitate and support access to childcare,
  • A clear statement of intent that the contribution of all NHS staff in dealing with this pandemic will be reflected in future conversations about pay.

BAME staff

With heightened concern about the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on BAME staff, Unison has also set out what it would like to see in each workplace to minimise the risk, and several of these proposals overlap with the Blueprint.

They include:

  • A review of any staff networks available to Black staff in the organisation – including those working for contractors, banks and agencies – and what could be done to support and strengthen what is available.
  • Confirmation that staff not specifically invited to have an assessment can get one on request.
  • Urgent review of how staff with underlying health conditions can be deployed safely
  • Where staff are temporarily redeployed or reassigned, assurances should be given that they will suffer no detriment in terms of earnings, status or other terms and conditions.
  • Review of channels available for Black staff to raise concerns and how UNISON can support and facilitate this.

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