• 43% of working women, 50% working BAME women worried about job or promotion
  • 1 in 3 working mothers have lost work or hours due to childcare
  • But growing role for dads and flexible working new norm are signs of hope

To mark Equal Pay Day 2020 leading gender equality campaigning charity, the Fawcett Society, is publishing a new report that shows the UK is at a ‘coronavirus crossroads’ when it comes to gender equality. The report highlights the devastating impact of the coronavirus pandemic on equality in the workplace with 43% of working women saying they are worried about their job or promotion prospects due to the pandemic. However, it also shows that if Government and employers choose the right path, changes caused by the pandemic could accelerate us towards gender equality in the UK.

The Coronavirus Crossroads report shows that over a third (35%) of working mothers say they have lost work or hours due to a lack of care childcare but it also shows that since the pandemic the amount of time fathers spend caring for their children has doubled and many want to play a greater role in parenting. Enabling equal sharing of care in the home would create more equal opportunities in work, reduce the motherhood penalty (because women would not be seen as the only ones who take time off), and reduce the gender pay gap. In turn, this would improve UK productivity because it would enable women to fulfil their potential at work.

Sam Smethers, Fawcett Society Chief Executive, said:
“Throughout the last century, crises comparable to the pandemic have been forks in the path of history. The Second World War gave birth to the welfare state; the winter of discontent led to a new Thatcherite era. The coronavirus crisis puts us at a crossroads again, and it is clear that this applies to the gender pay gap.”

The report is being released to mark Equal Pay Day (20th November 2020) – the date when women effectively start to work for free because, on average, they are paid less than men – and it shows both risks and opportunities when it comes to closing the gender pay gap. While this year the headline gender pay gap has narrowed the data is incomplete and has been distorted by the coronavirus pandemic. We will not get a true picture until 2021.

The Fawcett Society finds that women face significant risks when it comes to unfair redundancies after furlough and due to the risk of the childcare sector collapsing. But it also finds signs of hope in the possibility that more mums who need it will be able to access flexible working, and that there is an opportunity to respond to the racial and structural inequalities laid bare by the pandemic by driving an intersectional approach to change in workplaces.

Alongside the report, new polling by Savanta ComRes (survey of 8,425 UK adults aged 18+) shows a worrying picture for the future of women in work, particularly Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) women. Half (50%) of employed BAME women say they are worried about their job or promotion prospects due to the pandemic, compared to 35% of employed white men.

School and childcare closures also created significant challenges for BAME mothers. Four in nine (44%) working BAME mothers said they lost work or hours due to a lack of childcare, compared to 34% of working white mothers.

Sam Smethers, Fawcett Society Chief Executive, continued:
“This new data demonstrates once again that it is Black, Asian and minority ethnicity women who have suffered disproportionately in the pandemic. We must recognise the racial and gender inequality that exists in the UK and how they intersect. This is why we need gender pay reporting by ethnicity.

“Gains that have been made in the 50 years since the Equal Pay Act are at risk of being eroded. As the Government begins to look towards rebuilding the economy, it must invest in our childcare and social care infrastructure, embed flexible working and improve paid leave for dads. Government must also make the right to equal pay a reality by giving women the ‘Right to Know’ what a male colleague doing the same work is paid. This would give women the opportunity to resolve equal pay issues without having to go to court which would be a huge step forward.”

  • The report sets out four of the gender equality charity’s biggest fears, and the steps Government should take to stop them from being realised.
  • Equal pay is not realised and the gender pay gap widens. Government should modernise our equal pay legislation by introducing the Right to Know and reintroduce and strengthen gender pay gap reporting.
  • Women experience growing discrimination at work including in redundancies. Government should legislate to properly protect pregnant women and new mothers from redundancy, and require employers to report sex disaggregated redundancies data on to shine a light on discrimination.
  • The childcare sector collapses and gender inequality widens. Government should create a bailout fund for the childcare sector to mitigate existing losses and cover deficits until demand recovers.
  • Jobs in female-dominated sectors are lost long-term. Government must publish Equality Impact Assessments for all job creation and support schemes, including the Kickstart Scheme, and amend policy in line with those assessments to ensure it works for women.

Fawcett believes there are also reasons to be hopeful – the changes to how we work and live brought on by the pandemic means we have the opportunity to choose the road towards gender equality. The charity has identified four signs of hope, with key policy asks:

  • Flexible working becomes the norm. Government should seize on the increase in flexible working to legislate to make all jobs flexible, and advertised as such, unless there is a clear business requirement not to.
  • Fathers provide a greater share of unpaid care. Although mothers have been taking on more unpaid care than fathers, during lockdown fathers doubled the time they spent on childcare. Government should reform parental leave to create a longer, better paid period of reserved leave for fathers and second carers.
  • Workplaces respond to the need for intersectional equality. Government should reintroduce and extend gender pay gap reporting requirements to include ethnicity pay gap reporting. And require employers to publish action plans setting out the steps they will take to advance equality in their workplaces.
  • Society values our carers better and we invest in our social care infrastructure. We should pay carers better not just clap for them. Government should sustainably invest in our social care infrastructure to ensure a Real Living Wage for all care workers as a minimum, and end exploitative terms and conditions.

This Equal Pay Day, Fawcett is calling on people to make a statement and take action:

  • Make an 'Equal Pay' facemask. You can write on your mask with a marker, stick a sticker on or even sew it - it just needs to use the words Equal Pay to get our message across.
  • Share a photo of you wearing your mask on social media using the hashtag #EqualPayDay.

Further findings of the research:

  • Young women are more worried about their job or promotion prospects than older women: 43% of women aged 18-34 say they are worried compared to 34% of women aged 35-54 and 26% of women aged 55+.
  • More upper- and middle-class women say they are worried about their job and promotion prospects than working-class women (39% compared to 31%). But, more upper- and middle-class women also disagree that they are worried (25% compared to 21%).
  • There is no difference in the number of women working part-time or full-time who are worried about their job or promotion prospect or who say they have lost work due to availability of care for children.

- Ends -

Editors Notes:

1. Equal Pay Day – the day in the year when, based on average pay data for those in full-time work, women overall stop being paid compared to men. We use the Government’s Gender Pay Gap in the UK dataset to calculate what day of the year Equal Pay Day. This year, Equal Pay Day is on 20 November.

2. To calculate the gender pay gap the Fawcett Society uses the ONS mean average fulltime pay gap of 11.5%. Others often cite the median average which currently stands at 7.4% for full time workers. When part-time workers are included the figure rises, to 14.6% (mean) and 15.5% (median). Fawcett’s Equal Pay and Gender Pay Gap Briefing can be found here.

3. The Coronavirus Crossroads Equal Pay Day Report will be available on the Fawcett website after the embargo has lifted report. If you’d like a copy, please contact the press office.

4. Data in the report draws on interviews conducted online by Savanta ComRes of 8,425 UK adults aged 18+ between 18 September and 12 October 2020. Data were weighted to be representative of United Kingdom adults by age, gender, region, ethnicity, and socio-economic characteristics, including social grade. This data allows us to understand experiences of the pandemic among the UK population as a whole.

Full data tables will be available at: