Women and Work

What’s the situation?

Having the opportunity to take up quality, well paid work has long been understood as key for women’s equality. Even before the most recent financial crisis and austerity measures, there was still a long way to go –  but the combination of these are making it even more difficult for women to both find jobs and to stay in work.  The changing labour market is having a disproportionate effect on women.

Women are being hardest hit by cuts to public spending including bearing the brunt of cuts to public sector jobs and services and benefits that help them find and keep work. Thus we are seeing women’s unemployment hit a 25 year high while the combination of cuts to benefits and services coupled with soaring childcare costs is also forcing many women who were in work out of their jobs.

For those who remain in jobs – strengthening not weakening key workplace rights is vital.

Because women are often still faced with negative attitudes, discrimination and even dismissal in the workplace because of their roles, actual or potential, as carers – workplace rights are vital. But the recession has seen calls from some quarters to actually remove these rights – unhelpfully and inaccurately characterizing them as “red tape” that is acting as barrier to growth. The Government’s recent Employee Shareholder (ES) proposals suggest that employees could “forfeit “certain basic rights, such as flexible working, for shares in the company

But over the past decades, it is these rights which have enabled women to balance work and family responsibilities, key drivers in giving women greater access to work and an independent income. And whilst these existing protections are under threat the continuing lack of flexible working opportunities and quality part-time work coupled with a long working hours culture mean that women pay a penalty at work by losing out on promotions, training opportunities and job progression more generally. This in turn contributes to another major inequality between women and men at work – a gender pay gap of 15%– one of the highest in the EU . Fawcett is campaigning for both greater flexible working opportunitird  and greater action on equal pay women in the UK still face one the highest gender pay gaps in the EU. This is not helped by a parental leave system that does give parents much choice in how they share childcare..


Why does it matter?


Having the opportunity to take up quality, well paid work has long been understood as key for women’s equality.

Fawcett believes that women have a vital role to play in the nation’s economic recovery where they choose and are able. In order to make the best use of the available talent pool of men and women, women must be enabled to enter and stay in quality jobs, with employment rights in place to ensure they are protected at work.

A more progressive parental leave system and flexible working practices will go some way in shifting the ‘motherhood penalty’ that many women currently face. Supporting and protecting women at work brings benefits to not only women themselves, but allows for a more equitable division of caring responsibilities between men and women and allows employers to reach the widest available talent pool.

What do we want to see happen?

Fawcett is campaigning to on several fronts to improve women’s access to work and protections in the workplace.

  • We are campaigning to improve maternity rights so that we see a reformed parental leave system that offers more flexibility to families and allows women greater choice around their work and caring responsibilities.  We want to see flexible working practices promoted as the ‘norm’ as flexible jobs allow women more opportunities to equally participate in the labour market.
  • We are also campaigning hard to make sure that we do not see any regression in terms of women’s hard fought workplace rights. Recent changes to employment law and the introduction of employee shareholder schemes could spell a tipping point for women’s workplace rights.
  • Finally, we are calling on government to implement a dedicated women’s employment strategy to address the key threats to women’s position in the labour market and to ensure that women are able to play a full part in the economic recovery.


Take action!


Share your story

Real life accounts of how the cuts are impacting on women are essential in order to illustrate our concerns and push for change – they can make a far greater impact on MPs or decision-maker than stats and facts alone. If you have a personal story you are willing to share (even if you wish to remain anonymous) then please email us economy@fawcettsociety.org.uk


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