Last reviewed 12 February 2021
Because of existing gendered economic inequalities, the over-representation of women in certain types of work and the actions the Government has taken, the economic impact of coronavirus has affected men and women differently.
In its report, Unequal Impact? Coronavirus and the Gendered Economic Impact (available at https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm5801/cmselect/cmwomeq/385/385.pdf), Parliament’s Women and Equalities Committee (WEC) argues that the Government has overlooked the labour market and caring inequalities faced by women.
“The message from our evidence is clear: Government policies have repeatedly skewed towards men — and it keeps happening,” Committee Chairwoman Caroline Nokes said.
The report calls on the Government to assess the equality impact of the Industrial Strategy and the New Deal and analyse who has benefited from the industrial strategy. Priorities for recovery are heavily gendered in nature, the WEC suggests, with investment plans also skewing towards male-dominated sectors.
Ministers should review the adequacy of and eligibility for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP), given that women are over-represented among those who are not eligible, and should legislate to extend redundancy protection to pregnant women and new mothers.
The Government should also review childcare provision to provide support for working parents and those who are job seeking or retraining.
Welcoming the report, TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Women have been put in an impossible situation during the pandemic — often expected to work and look after children at the same time. Too many working mums are having to cut their hours or being forced to leave their jobs because they cannot manage”.
For the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), Chairwoman Baroness Kishwer Falkner agreed that women are over-represented in low-paid and insecure employment and still take on the majority of caring responsibilities.
“Employers must pay close attention to the law on pregnancy and maternity discrimination,” she went on. “Everyone has the right to a working environment that allows them to reach their full potential, and pregnant women and new mothers must be adequately protected so that they can continue to contribute their skills and experience to Britain’s recovery.”
Comment by Kate Palmer, HR Advice and Consultancy Director at Peninsula
At this stage, employers are not going to have much to consider as far as the WEC’s call for Government-level change.
The most important factor that employers will be taking away from this is how their business practices adversely impact on women.
With protections for women, and pregnant women, already in place to protect them from discrimination and unfair dismissal, it will be up to employers to ensure that women are not being adversely treated in the workplace.