Government policies failing women on flexible working, says UNISON

Pandemic has highlighted need for new arrangements.

Women on the frontline need increased support from government to make their working lives more manageable including control over when, where and how long they work, says UNISON (Monday 8th March).

On International Women’s Day today, the union – which represents more than a million female employees including in the NHS, social care and local government – says the pandemic has had an unequal impact on women, especially those with caring responsibilities.

Analysis of a recent UNISON survey* of almost 47,000 female key workers including nurses, teaching assistants and council employees shows many feel on the brink of burn out trying to juggle both work and home commitments through the pandemic.

Two fifths (40%) said they did not feel supported in their job during Covid and the majority (80%) of those who travelled into work feared they might bring the virus home to their loved ones. At the same time, more than half (54%) felt they were failing to spend enough quality time with their families.

The findings revealed that 21% also perform a caring role for an adult, such as looking after partners or elderly parents, including those with serious health conditions like dementia or cancer. A greater ability to work flexible hours and from home where possible, would help them manage their responsibilities, says UNISON.

UNISON general secretary Christina McAnea said: “Women key workers have helped keep this country running during the Covid-19 crisis. This is often while supporting sick relatives and caring for young families.

“The pandemic has hammered home how many women need more flexible hours to have a fulfilling work life and deal with family commitments. The government must step up to ensure employers give women a fairer deal over hours.

“But not only are they still expected to be the primary carer, society continues to put a low value on huge numbers of jobs mainly done by women.

“This has to change. Women’s voices must be at the heart of our Covid recovery.”

You can find the notes to editors on the UNISON National website here.