The impact of Covid-19 for women at work
The pandemic has undoubtedly had a significant impact on workplaces across the UK. What is becoming increasingly clear from the cases we are seeing at Bolt Burdon is the disproportionate impact on working mums.
Studies carried out by the Institute for Fiscal Studies demonstrate that the pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on sectors that had a total shutdown during the lockdown such as hospitality, beauty and leisure, where statistically more women work.
This could help to explain why 75% of furloughed male workers had their pay topped up beyond the 80% cap, versus just 65% of female workers.
Things become more complicated when we look at the impacts of school and nursery closures, the lockdown and subsequent job losses, and a shift to working from home on parents and in particular on working mums.
Working mums are 47% more likely than dads to have permanently lost their jobs or resigned as a result of Covid-19.
Among those doing paid work at home, mums are more likely to be spending their work hours simultaneously trying to care for children. This means there has been a disproportionate reduction in the hours that women are spending working uninterrupted at home. Women working at home are now doing on average a third less uninterrupted work than men.
What are we seeing at Bolt Burdon?
During the pandemic our employment team has seen an increase in requests for advice from women:
- about flexible working and part-time working requests, potentially as an impact of the additional caring responsibilities at home and outside of work;
- who are pregnant or on maternity leave and selected for redundancy;
- remaining on furlough leave whilst their male counterparts return to work; and
- on employment claims in general and, in particular, mothers selected for redundancies over their male colleagues.
It is our view that Covid-19 has exacerbated the pre-existing problem of gender inequality in our workplaces. If businesses are found to have taken decisions during the pandemic that have a greater negative impact on female employees, then there is a risk that these decisions will be found to be discriminatory on the grounds of sex.
Businesses who want to build their brand to attract and maintain the best talent must consider taking steps to support their female employees. If not, they may struggle to attract and retain a balanced workforce going forward.
For advice on any of the issues above, including flexible working requests, redundancy, equality and discrimination in the workplace, please contact Leanne Good, Neil Johnston or Céline Winham in our employment team.
*statistics throughout this article are taken from the Institute for Fiscal Studies