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Government policies “skewed towards men”

COVID-19 has economically affected men and women differently, partly due to action taken by government, the Women and Equalities Committee has said. 

'Government must ensure its Equalities Office and Minister for Women are more ambitious'
'Government must ensure its Equalities Office and Minister for Women are more ambitious'

The committee recently published a report on the pandemic and the gendered economic impact. It found the economic impact of COVID-19 has affected men and women differently. It said this is because of existing gendered economic inequalities, the over-representation of women in certain types of work and the actions the government has taken.


The Women and Equalities Committee has called on government to:

  • Conduct an Equality Impact Assessment of the Job Retention Scheme and the Self Employed Income Support Scheme.
  • Review the adequacy of and eligibility for Statutory Sick Pay. Women are over-represented among those who are not eligible.
  • Legislate to extend redundancy protection to pregnant women and new mothers.
  • Review childcare provision to provide support for working parents and those who are job seeking or retraining.
  • Reinstate gender pay gap reporting and include parental leave policies, ethnicity and disability.
  • Provide better data to improve reporting and analysis on how gender, ethnicity, disability, age and socio-economic status interact to compound disadvantage.
  • Ensure that the Government Equalities Office and Minister for Women are more ambitious and proactive.

Committee chair Caroline Nokes said the committee heard evidence from a wide range of organisations and the message was clear: “Government policies have repeatedly skewed towards men—and it keeps happening."


She added: “We need to see more than good intentions and hoping for the best. The government must start actively analysing and assessing the equality impact of every policy, or it risks turning the clock back.”


The TUC  is also calling on the government to introduce a number of measurements. These include    a new temporary right to furlough  for groups who cannot work because of restrictions, including parents, and 10 days paid paternal leave as a day one right.


In response to the committee report, chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, Baroness Kishwer Falkner, said: “Significant progress has been made on women’s equality at work and this cannot be put at risk. The pandemic has caused economic hardship for many businesses and the people that work for them, particularly in industries where women make up a large percentage of the workforce such as hospitality. We also know that women are over-represented in low-paid and insecure employment and still take on the majority of caring responsibilities.


“We agree with the Women and Equalities Committee’s findings, which echo our own assessments. Reviewing levels of investment in childcare, introducing flexible working as the default from day one, and better protections for pregnant women and new mothers against redundancy will help to safeguard their position in the workplace.”


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