Report highlights mental health risks to working mums

A new report highlights how working mums’ mental health has deteriorated during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Woman leans on a table looking depressed


Covid-19 has exacerbated rising work-related mental ill health with e-presenteeism extending the working day and working mums suffering the most, according to a new report.

The report, Burnout Britain: Overwork in an age of unemployment, by think tanks Compass and Autonomy as well as the 4 Day Week campaign, cites Office for National Statistics research showing that by April a third of all those who remained employed without being furloughed were working more hours than usual, leading to a 49% rise in mental ill health since the 2017-19 period, with women being disproportionately affected.

It says women are 43% more likely to have increased their hours beyond a standard working week than men, with working mums more stressed. It reports that 86% of women who were carrying out a standard working week alongside childcare suffered average or above average stress in April.

Two thirds of workers whose working week increased beyond a standard 37.5-40 hours and who also engaged in active childcare during April at a rate greater than or equal to the UK average of 80 minutes a day, reported levels of mental distress.

By June ONS statistics show more than half (51%) of workers keeping up this level of work alongside childcare responsibilities were experiencing mental distress, says the report which highlights the risk of “an unprecedented mental health crisis” as a direct result of both overemployment and underemployment.

The report calls on the Government to establish a Working Time Commission to explore both underemployment and overemployment and seek out the best policy-making opportunities for using shorter working time “to share work more equally across the economy”. It also recommends a four-day week in the public sector, which it says could create between 300,000 and 500,000 jobs and it calls for a targeted Shorter Working Time Subsidy Scheme to replace the furlough scheme. Under this, employers would continue to pay workers for four days’ worth of work (thus reducing their wage bill), while the government would top up earnings for hours no longer on the job to ensure no drop in pay. The report says this would effectively reduce firms’ wage bills by 20%.

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