New guidance for local government on supporting women at work during Covid-19
Covid-19 has had a drastic impact on women’s experience of employment. The majority of key workers are women, working in often economically undervalued and lower paid female-dominated jobs. In local authorities this includes carers, cleaners, catering workers and early learning and children workers. Many have had to manage the immense pressures of providing essential services during the pandemic while also trying to care for children and other family members.
Without mitigating action Covid-19 will have long term consequences for women’s employment which exacerbates women’s inequality at work. It’s critical for employers to recognise the disproportionate impact Covid-19 has had on women, especially different groups of women. For example, BME women, single parents, and younger women have been particularly affected as they are more likely to work in a sector affected by job disruption. An intersectional approach to workforce planning is necessary to ensure the distinct experiences of different groups of women are visible.
Employers must act to support women workers
As organisations adapt to new ways of working, it’s essential that women’s experience of employment and Covid-19 is used to inform planning for the new normal. There’s a considerable risk that progress on women’s equality at work will be rolled back. Now is the time for employers to demonstrate their commitment to gender equality. Not only is it necessary to support women workers, but there’s clear evidence that gender equality is a catalyst for growth and recovery.
We developed guidance for councils who are participating in Equally Safe at Work on best practice for ensuring women’s inequality isn’t further exacerbated by Covid-19. The guidance provides information and actions for councils on:
- data collection;
- caring responsibilities;
- flexible working;
- health and safety;
- pregnancy and maternity; and
- violence against women.
Covid-19 has magnified the gendered barriers in the workplace. Our new guidance will enable employers to better support women returning to work or continuing to work from home safely. It also supports employers to review data gathering to make sure they’re capturing women’s different experiences during Covid-19, and highlights where changes need to be made to employment practice to ensure women’s equality and safety.