The Covid-19 gender trap that could last a gen­er­a­tion and set back equal pay for 90 years A lack of child­care

The pan­demic has left women with a heavy eco­nomic price to pay, dis­cov­ers Mar­i­anna Hunt

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Business -

Women will be thou­sands of pounds worse off and have their ca­reers pushed back by years due to Covid-19.

Data shows that not only have they been more likely to lose their job dur­ing the pan­demic, they are also tak­ing on a greater bur­den of child­care and house­hold du­ties in lock­down.

The im­pact could last a gen­er­a­tion, with pension pots hit and the gender pay gap widen­ing as a re­sult of the eco­nomic fall­out of the pan­demic.

The Daily Tele­graph has launched a cam­paign, Equal­ity Check, call­ing on the Gov­ern­ment to con­sider the dis­pro­por­tion­ate ef­fect its Covid-19 poli­cies are hav­ing on women.

Worst-hit sec­tors

Women are more likely to work in sec­tors that have had to shut down dur­ing lock­down, re­search by think tank the Res­o­lu­tion Foun­da­tion has shown.

Al­most 20pc of women work in in­dus­tries such as re­tail and hos­pi­tal­ity that have suf­fered job losses and earn­ings cuts, com­pared to 13pc of men.

Chores and child­care

Women are tak­ing on a dis­pro­por­tion­ate bur­den of house­hold re­spon­si­bil­i­ties while schools and nurs­eries re­main closed. Re­search by the In­sti­tute for Fiscal Stud­ies found that moth­ers are spend­ing around 10 hours a day look­ing af­ter chil­dren – two hours more than fathers.

Moth­ers are also spend­ing al­most two hours more on chores than fathers. A lack of child­care has meant that thou­sands have had to cut down their hours or stop work en­tirely.

The moth­er­hood penalty

Moth­ers are 47pc more likely than fathers to have lost or quit their job since the lock­down be­gan, the IFS found. Around 16pc of moth­ers are no longer in work as a re­sult of the pan­demic, com­pared to 11pc of fathers.

Those that are still in paid work have re­duced their hours sub­stan­tially and by more than fathers. Some vol­un­teered to be put on fur­lough, have taken un­paid leave or quit their job in or­der to look af­ter chil­dren.

Other re­search from Un­der­stand­ing So­ci­ety, an an­nual study of Bri­tish house­holds, showed that women are al­most twice as likely to have re­duced their hours be­cause of car­ing du­ties than men dur­ing Covid-19.

Dis­crim­i­na­tion at work

One in four new or soon-to-be moth­ers claim to have faced dis­crim­i­na­tion at work dur­ing lock­down, such as be­ing sin­gled out for re­dun­dancy or fur­lough, ac­cord­ing to the Trades Union Congress. Its re­search is based on the ex­pe­ri­ences of more than 3,400 women.

They also re­ported be­ing forced to take sick leave when they were not un­well, hav­ing to take un­paid leave or start their ma­ter­nity leave early, as well as be­ing un­able to go to work be­cause their em­ployer failed to make their work­place safe for them.

All of th­ese ac­tions are il­le­gal. If work­places are not safe for preg­nant women and new moth­ers, em­ploy­ers must sus­pend them on full pay.

Women want­ing to re­turn to work af­ter ma­ter­nity leave may strug­gle, as nurs­eries and child­min­ders are hav­ing to re­duce their num­bers to meet so­cial dis­tanc­ing re­quire­ments and many are no longer ac­cept­ing new chil­dren.

Prior to Covid-19 par­ents were al­ready strug­gling to ac­cess child­care, due to pro­hib­i­tive costs and a lack of sup­ply. Only around half of coun­cils in Eng­land and Wales had enough child­care places for work­ing par­ents last year, a re­port by char­ity Co­ram Fam­ily and Child­care re­vealed.

As fam­ily du­ties have dis­pro­por­tion­ately fallen on women, there is a risk that many moth­ers will be forced to give up work if they can­not find child­care. More than 220,000 peo­ple have signed a pe­ti­tion to ex­tend paid ma­ter­nity leave by three months to pre­vent moth­ers who can­not find nurs­ery places from hav­ing to quit their jobs.

Knock-on ef­fects

Women go­ing down to part-time hours or los­ing their job dur­ing the pan­demic may strug­gle to re­turn to full-time em­ploy­ment, as Bri­tain is ex­pected to plunge deep into re­ces­sion this year.

Any time out of a job or work­ing fewer hours will sig­nif­i­cantly re­duce their pension, mean­ing they have less to re­tire on. Cal­cu­la­tions by

Tele­graph Money sug­gest they could end up £12,000 worse off in re­tire­ment as a re­sult.

Even be­fore coro­n­avirus women’s pen­sions were much smaller than men’s. The av­er­age woman re­tires with just a fifth of the pension wealth as the av­er­age man. This is equal to £35,800 ver­sus £179,091, ac­cord­ing to data from the Char­tered In­sur­ance In­sti­tute, a trade body.

A long time com­ing

Prior to Covid-19, the Fawcett So­ci­ety, a women’s char­ity, cal­cu­lated that it would take 60 years for women to reach pay par­ity with men.

How­ever, it said that the cri­sis and sub­se­quent eco­nomic fall­out could de­lay this by three decades, mean­ing women may con­tinue earn­ing less un­til the year 2110.

Last year fe­male em­ploy­ees in Bri­tain earned on av­er­age 12pc less than male ones.

In March the Gov­ern­ment said com­pa­nies would not have to re­port their gender pay gap – the dif­fer­ence be­tween av­er­age male and fe­male earn­ings – in light of the Covid-19 cri­sis.

Of the firms that chose to do so any­way, data sug­gests the gap has in­creased to al­most 13pc.

‘More than 220,000 peo­ple have signed a pe­ti­tion to ex­tend paid ma­ter­nity leave by three months’

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