The Women and Equalities Committee has found that Government policies have been “repeatedly skewed towards men”, in its new report on the impact of coronavirus on men and women.
Caroline Nokes, committee chair, said the government had “overlooked the labour market and caring inequalities faced by women,” adding that:
“The government must start actively analysing and assessing the equality impact of every policy, or it risks turning the clock back.”
The report found that throughout the pandemic, women spent more time on caring duties than men, yet “furlough was not clearly articulated as a right for those with caring responsibilities”.
The committee also found that women were less likely than men to be eligible for statutory sick pay (SSP), partly due to caring responsibilities, which meant their wages were too low to qualify for support.
The committee made over 20 recommendations to the government including:
- Conduct an Equality Impact Assessment of the Job Retention Scheme and the Self Employed Income Support Scheme. This should draw on existing inequalities and would better protect those already at a disadvantage in the labour market, including women. It could also inform more effective responses to future crises.
- Assess the equality impact of the Industrial Strategy and the New Deal, and analyse who has benefited from the industrial strategy. Priorities for recovery are heavily gendered in nature, with investment plans skewing towards male dominated sectors.
- Maintain increases in support, including the £20 increase to the Universal Credit standard allowance.
- 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.
In response, the government said it had spent over £200bn on job support schemes saying:
“Throughout the pandemic this government has done whatever it takes to protect lives and livelihoods, and will continue to do so.”