Government must assess equality impact of every policy

The Women and Equalities Committee has published its report on coronavirus and the gendered economic impact. The report has found that the economic impact of coronavirus has affected men and women differently. 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.


Key recommendations

The report calls on the Government to:

  • 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.

  • Conduct an economic growth assessment of the care-led recovery proposals made by the Women’s Budget Group. (Treasury)

  • Maintain increases in support, including the £20 increase to the Universal Credit standard allowance. (Department for Work and Pensions)

  • 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.

Chair's comments Committee Chair Caroline Nokes said:

"As the pandemic struck, the Government had to act quickly to protect jobs and adapt welfare benefits.

"These have provided a vital safety net for millions of people. But it overlooked the labour market and caring inequalities faced by women.

"These are not a mystery, they are specific and well understood. And yet the Government has repeatedly failed to consider them.

"This passive approach to gender equality is not enough. And for many women it has made existing equality problems worse: in the support to self-employed people, to pregnant women and new mothers, to the professional childcare sector, and for women claiming benefits. And it risks doing the same in its plans for economic recovery.

"We heard evidence from a wide range of organisations, including Maternity Action, the National Hair and Beauty Federation, the TUC, the Professional Association of Childcare and Early Years, the single parents campaign group Gingerbread, the Young Women’s Trust and the Women’s Budget Group. And written evidence from many more.

"The message from our evidence is clear: Government policies have repeatedly skewed towards men—and it keeps happening.

"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.

"Our report sets out a package of twenty recommendations for change and a timescale. Taken together, these will go a long way towards tackling the problems and creating the more equal future that so many women—and men—want to see.

"The Government should seize this opportunity."

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