Congress notes that Covid-19 has had a devastating impact on women’s lives and that this is likely to worsen. Black women, disabled women and women in poverty are disproportionately affected.
During lockdown, working-class women are more likely to have lost their jobs, or been furloughed. Women were already more likely to be in precarious and low-paid work, be at risk of redundancy and less able to access statutory sick pay. Women have been subject to pregnancy and maternity discrimination and have lost out on pay and promotion. Women have also suffered from the lack of flexible working that genuinely meets their work/life needs, rather than just suiting employers.
Congress notes that women are disproportionally concentrated in low-paying industries, including cleaning, cashiering, caring, catering and clerical work. These jobs are often part-time, and increasingly, do not pay enough to lift a family out of poverty. Furthermore, these jobs are vulnerable to budgetary cuts, changing social habits and may not be done from home.
Congress is concerned at the decline in the number of high street shops, and subsequent loss of jobs, and the impact of Covid-19, which have exacerbated the pressures on women relying on such employment.
Congress acknowledges that the effects of poverty are pervasive and long-lasting, and that women are more likely to live in poverty than men: most women still earn less than men, have lower incomes over a lifetime and are more likely to live in poverty in old age.
Almost half of single parents, mostly women, are living in poverty.
Poverty often leads to no access to the internet or reliance on pay-as-you-go services to access healthcare, education and benefits online.
Women are shouldering the responsibility of unpaid caring and domestic roles. Childcare provision for low-paid care workers has been particularly problematic during the pandemic.
Violence against women has increased significantly whilst specialist services and refuges face funding shortfalls.
Congress calls for the UK government to invest in improved retraining opportunities for women, including within further education, and to invest in free provision of child and social care to enable more women to access education, training and quality jobs.
Congress instructs the TUC to:
i. campaign for gender equality to be at the heart of government plans to rebuild the economy, including calling on government to:
- support the Pregnancy and Maternity (Redundancy Protection) Bill
- give an immediate cash injection to fund the childcare sector, additional funding targeting provision supporting children from low-income households and support provision of childcare for those who do not work traditional working hours: many women, in particular key workers, work shift patterns and struggle with childcare arrangements
- ratify the ILO Convention on Violence and Harassment (C190)
- provide day-one rights for parental leave and change the law so that flexible working is a right open to all workers from day one of employment, with employers required to advertise all jobs on that basis
- counter the growth of unsustainable insecure employment
ii. encourage affiliates to:
- develop and share good practice on strategies to address gender inequalities at work
- bargain for workplace domestic violence policies
iii. ensure women workers are at the centre of the TUC’s social, economic and political work
iv. use HeartUnions week to focus on improving the working life of care workers and those with unpaid caring responsibilities
v. invite the Women’s Budget Group and End Violence Against Women to address the General Council
vi. support the WHO call for governments to include in their response plan to the crisis the need for ring-fenced funding for specialist domestic violence services
vii. show solidarity with women in Turkey organising against violence and to resist the threat by President Erdogan to repeal ILO Convention (C190)
Mover: National Education Union
Seconder: Educational Institute of Scotland
Supporters: UNISON; Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers;
Chartered Society of Physiotherapy; ASLEF