Government must act now to ensure that women do not continue to face disproportionate impacts from the coronavirus crisis and to prevent decades of incremental progress on gender equality being lost.
The TUC recommends that the government acts to:
New and expectant mums have been acutely affected by the health and economic impacts of the coronavirus crisis, and the actions that government and employers have taken to respond to it. As a result, in June 2020, the TUC surveyed over 3,400 pregnant women and mums on maternity leave to find out about their experiences of work during the period. <1 .
Since the Covid-19 pandemic began
There are five immediate actions the TUC recommends the government take to protect women’s health, jobs and livelihoods. These include changes to health and safety practices, preventing discriminatory redundancies, an urgent emergency childcare bailout, an extension of the job retention scheme for parents (including mums returning from maternity leave) who cannot find childcare and an increase in protection for casual, agency and zero-hours workers.
These recommendations must be implemented alongside coordinated action with trade unions and civil society organisations that drive a sustained cultural shift, ultimately improving the experiences of pregnant employees and new mums, and employers alike. We have described these in detail in the report.
For mums and mums-to-be, pregnancy and new motherhood can be an exciting time. It can also be a time full of new challenges and experiences and feelings of anxiety can be a natural part of this process.
Anxiety about the health and economic impacts of the Covid-19 crisis have inevitably added to the worries new mums face. Experts have warned Covid-19 has had a negative impact on maternal mental health beyond that seen in the general population, where reported rates of anxiety have more than doubled. 4 .
Work should be a safe place where mums are supported during pregnancy and in the early stages of motherhood. Employers that follow good practice increase the likelihood of maintaining a skilled and diverse workforce, which positively impacts profitability. 5 . If employers and employees work together to put plans in place for pregnancy, maternity leave and return to work, it can lead to higher levels of employee satisfaction and increased staff retention. 6 .
However, our new research has identified three area of huge concern for new and expectant mums at work, to be discussed in the following chapters:
As the economic downturn deepens and employers try to do more with less, the TUC are deeply concerned that our new research shows discrimination and employers’ negative attitudes towards pregnant women and new mums is intensifying.
Without immediate action from the government, women could be forced out of their jobs, decades of incremental improvements in gender equality at work will be reversed, working families will lose vital income and the gender pay gap will widen.
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