The Government has responded to a report which found that policies linked to COVID-19 support were “repeatedly skewed towards men”.
Responding to a report created by the Women and Equalities Committee, the Government has welcomed a range of the Committee’s recommendations and put steps in place to take action in certain areas.
The initial report found that policies instated by the Government during the pandemic consistently overlooked the caring responsibilities and labour market inequalities faced by women.
This included the furlough scheme not being correctly signposted as a right for workers with caring responsibilities and failing to recognise that women made up the majority of industries largely impacted by COVID-19.
Of the various recommendations set out by the Committee, the Government stated that they are considering amending the Flexible Working Regulations 2014. Access to flexible working, they stated, would be key to ensuring increased participation of some groups who are under-represented in the labour market.
Hence, the response stated the Government would be further encouraging flexible working by consulting on making it the default unless employers have good reasons not to.
The Government further pledged to bring forward an Employment Bill when “parliamentary time allows”, although they refused to meet the Committee’s deadline to achieve this by the end of June 2021.
The Government also stated their intention to extend the redundancy protection period afforded to mothers on maternity leave. This will be instated for mothers for six months after she has returned to work and will also apply to those taking adoption leave and shared parental leave. However, again, the Government did not stipulate a specific time frame in which this measure would be enacted.
The report also explained that the Government was considering implementing Ethnicity Pay Gap reporting in addition to continuing their current agenda of Gender Pay Gap reporting (which has been delayed due to COVID-19).
Caroline Nokes MP, Chair of the Women and Equalities Committee, said:
We are pleased that the Government has accepted our recommendation to amend the current flexible working regulations, removing the threshold for employees to request flexible working arrangements. The pandemic has clearly demonstrated that it is unhelpful and unnecessary.
In its Response, the Government states it wants to make it easier for people to work flexibly and commit to further encouraging flexible working by consulting on making it the default unless employers have good reasons not to. We welcome the launch of the consultation as soon as possible.
We are encouraged to see that the Government has taken the opportunity to listen and work towards improving the situation.
*The full Government response to the Women and Equalities Committee report can be found here.