Yesterday I spoke at the launch of the Woman and Work All-Party Parliamentary Group’s new ‘Women’s Wellbeing at Work’ report, which examined the impact that COVID-19 has had on women’s employment and wellbeing. In the midst of an unequal pandemic, the report is a valuable contribution to the debate on how we support both women’s wellbeing at work.
Women have been harder hit during this crisis. 57% of workers in sectors now shut down by the coronavirus were women, compared to a workforce average of 48%. According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, mothers are 1.5 times more likely than fathers to have lost their job or quit since the start of the lockdown and are also more likely to have been furloughed. And the Women’s Budget Group found that women are more likely to be in the categories disproportionately affected by the pandemic – women make up 69% of low earners, 54% of temporary employees, 54% of workers on zero-hours contracts, and 59% of part-time self-employment.
The impact on women, however, has not only been economic. Data from Refuge, which runs the National Domestic Abuse helpline, shows more than 40,000 calls were made during the first three months of the COVID-19 restrictions as a result of lockdown and measures to limit movement, trapping many women at home with their abusers without access to safe spaces. Meanwhile, a survey carried out by Pregnant then Screwed found 57% of working mothers believed that managing childcare responsibilities alongside their paid work during the pandemic had harmed future career prospects and 78% said they found it challenging to manage childcare and their paid work during the lockdown period.
This is a report, however, that not only powerfully articulated the challenges faced by women in the workplace during the pandemic and beyond, but that provides practical advice on addressing the problems women face in the workplace and calls for Government to take action. It’s recommendations, from establishing a task force on women’s employment to reforming parental leave, are a welcome contribution to addressing the challenges women face in the workplace and beyond, and I hope Government Ministers will be paying close attention.
MPs across the country have sadly heard of the gaps in the current economic support package for women, particularly new mothers. The Government must now publish a COVID-19 economic support package equality assessment.
Going forward, we need to plan now for when we emerge from the crisis, for a much more equal economy.
A copy of the report is available online here: https://bit.ly/2NMa3vk