Woman thinking

The government’s support has been “repeatedly skewed towards men” throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, a committee of MPs has said.

Committee chair Caroline Nokes said the government had “repeatedly failed to consider” the needs of women and the inequalities they face.

The report found that women spent more time on care than men during the pandemic, but noted that “furlough was not clearly articulated as a right for those with caring responsibilities”.

It also found that women were less likely to qualify for sick pay because in many cases their caring responsibilities meant they did not earn enough to qualify for financial support.

The Women and Equalities Committee called on the government to “start actively analysing and assessing the equality impact of every policy”.

Ms Nokes said: “Government policies have repeatedly skewed towards men – and it keeps happening.

“The government must start actively analysing and assessing the equality impact of every policy, or it risks turning the clock back.”

A government spokesperson said that £200 billion had been spent on support throughout the pandemic, allowing 1.7 million self-employed women. They added: “Covid-19 is prompting a culture shift with more people than ever before working flexibly, and the government wants to harness that as we recover.

“By doing so, we could see more equal sharing of care work by parents, and more flexibility from employers, enabling us to unleash the potential of everyone across the country.”

Labour’s shadow women and equalities secretary, Marsha de Cordova, said there needs to be a “gendered response to the crisis”.

She said: “The unequal impact of coronavirus on women is huge – women are more likely to work in low-paid sectors, to work in sectors which are currently shutdown such as retail and hospitality, and have taken on more caring responsibilities.

“The government cannot continue to deny and dismiss the reality of gender inequality across society.”

British Chambers of Commerce co-executive director Claire Walker said: “Employers value the skills women bring to the workplace and the evidence shows that businesses with a diverse and inclusive workforce perform better.”

“Economic growth will depend on access to high quality, affordable childcare.”

 

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