The hidden cost of coronavirus for working women

The hidden cost of coronavirus for working women

We like to think that we live in a hugely civilised, modern society.

But when something happens which upsets our way of life – such as coronavirus -  it doesn’t take long for some old stereotypes to emerge.

With lots of us forced to work from home, the kids being unable to go to school, and a state of national emergency reducing us to lockdown, you’d have thought that we’d have all pulled together to share the burden of domestic chores and home educating.

But if you look at the latest figures, I’m afraid they paint an entirely different story.

Research by the Institute for Fiscal Studies shows that in mixed-sex households where both partners work, it’s the women who have been picking up the extra burden of housework and looking after the kids during lockdown.

And the IFS research shows it’s those same women who are finding their working lives being interrupted most during the lockdown as household chores and childcare responsibilities land at their feet.

You might think this is just a short-term blip brought about by a national crisis, but the IFS warns there is likely to be a long-lasting impact on mothers’ professional lives as a result of the pandemic – including slowing down the progress made over the past few years in narrowing the gender pay gap.

The report – called How are mothers and fathers balancing work and family under lockdown? - says mothers have been doing only a third of the uninterrupted paid work hours of fathers during the lockdown period.

It also shows:

  • 47% of mothers’ paid working hours are split between work and things like childcare and household tasks, compared with 30% for fathers.
  • Mums are spending 2.3 hours more every day than Dads on childcare.
  • Mums are 23% more likely than Dads to have lost their jobs and 14% more likely to have been furloughed during the crisis.
  • Working mums’ paid work has fallen from 6.3 hours of a weekday on average to 4.9 hours. Paid hours worked by fathers have fallen from 8.6 hours to 7.2 hours.

This is serious stuff. If correct (and the general pattern of these statistics has been repeated across much of Europe) working women are not only suffering most during the lockdown but have an uncertain future ahead of them.

But remember, the current crisis does not give employers a free pass to discriminate against anyone on the basis of any of the protected characteristics listed in the 2010 Equality Act – age; disability; gender reassignment; marriage and civil partnership; pregnancy and maternity; race; religion or belief; sex and sexual orientation.

So, if you think you’ve been singled out because of your gender – or any of the other characteristics listed above – you don’t have to accept it. Coronavirus does not give anyone the right to discriminate unlawfully in the workplace.

And if you need help, advice and support to fight your corner, you know where to come.

If you would like to discuss these issues, or other HR concerns then please

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