Women could be the big losers in the recession, warns report

Women are more vulnerable to job loss in the recession, says the Fawcett Society, and launches a five-point protection plan.

Women are particularly vulnerable to losing their jobs in what is a man-made recession, say a report by pressure group The Fawcett Society.

The report, ‘Are women bearing the burden of the recession?’, says that new or expectant mothers are in particular danger of being “picked off” “as unscrupulous employers look for a reduction in their workforce” through making them redundant while they are on leave or refusing their requests to work flexibly, thus making it impossible for them to return.
It is published to coincide with a roundtable hosted by Minister for Women, Harriet Harman at 11 Downing Street on 4th March.
The report calls for the Government to introduce quotas for female representation on the boards of listed companies, starting with the now part-nationalised banks and says that the fact that women are on an unequal economic footing with men makes them particularly vulnerable.
It sets out a five-point plan for recovering from the recession and warns that the Government risks losing the advances that women have made in the workplace over the past twenty years if it does not adopt them.
Dr Katherine Rake, the report’s author and Director of the Fawcett Society commented:  “This recession must not be used as an excuse to send women back to the kitchen. The enormous strides that women have made in workplace equality must be protected during tough times and we cannot afford to lose women’s vital skills as we seek a route to recovery. Women are now looking to the Government to send out a strong signal to business that it will not compromise on women’s rights.”
A third of mothers use some sort of flexible working arrangement (compared to just under a fifth of dads). The Fawcett Society says earlyu indications show that some employers are restricting access to flexible working with a particular impact on women. They add that flexible workers will be perceived as less committed. Women are also more likely ot work part-time or on temporary contracts. Because they are lower paid, they are less likely to have savings to cushion the blow of redundancy.
The Fawcett Society says the one factor currently protecting women is their concentration in public sector jobs, but fears these jobs will come under threat as the recession rolls out.
Its five-point plan calls for:
– The Government to ensure that women know their rights and says it must monitor, “as a matter of urgency”, maternity-related discrimination and take tougher measures to end the dismissal of pregnant women.
– The Government to deliver “a bold package” to end pay discrimination, including equal pay audits.
– The Government to promote flexible working as a solution to the downturn and to make it possible for people to request flexible working as soon as they start a new job, not six months after as is currently the case.
– The fast-tracking of women into decision-making positions, specifically the adoption of quotas for FTSE companies to ensure better governance across the corporate sector.
– Fair access to skills and back to work programmes for women with these programmes recognising the needs of mothers returning to work and the tailoring of Train to Gain, apprenticeship schemes and other continuing education provision needs to women’s needs, such as childcare commitments.
The report can be viewed here.

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