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The key tool for supporting female employees during the pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic is causing shock waves in the economy the world over, but female employees are more likely to face the brunt of it, largely due to the industries they’re employed in and their share of household duties. With that said, employers’ shift in mindset can help female employees lessen the burden. In this Pacific Prime UK article, we take a closer look at how female employees are impacted and what employers can do to support them.

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How female employees are impacted by the pandemic

According to a group of researchers at Northwestern University, the current pandemic-related recession is impacting female employees disproportionately, causing employment losses that are in stark contrast to previous recessions where male-dominated industries like construction and manufacturing are typically the first ones to slow down.

This is because the current recession has been triggered by stay-at-home orders that have taken a toll on hospitality jobs, which has a large share of female employees. What’s more, the shutdown of schools and daycare centres, coupled with an unprecedented healthcare crisis, has increased caregiving duties that largely fall on women.

In the UK, a similar pattern is visible. The Institute for Fiscal Studies found that one in six (17% of) female employees are in sectors like retail and hospitality that were shut down, compared to one in seven (13% of) male employees. Likewise, even if women are in employment, they do more of the domestic work.

Research by King’s College London and Ipsos MORI points to:

  • Despite women (33%) and men (31%) being equally likely to say their caring and domestic responsibilities have increased since lockdown, female parents say they spend 7 hours in an average weekday on childcare, compared with 5 hours for male parents.
  • Nevertheless, working fathers (43%) say their caring or domestic responsibilities are negatively impacting their ability to do their paid job by at least a fair amount, versus working mothers (32%) who say the same.

Mental health of female employees

Often referred to as the “double burden” or “double shift”, the additional caring and domestic responsibilities that have been accelerated due to the pandemic is negatively impacting the mental health of female employees. With the second lockdown in place in the UK, it is likely that this will hit women the hardest again.

As per the research by King’s College London and Ipsos MORI:

  • Women (37%) say they find the pandemic stressful, at a higher rate than men do (25%). In addition to this, women (53%) have felt more anxious and depressed as usual, compared to men (43%).

Gender pay gap in the UK

Due to the pandemic, the UK government has also suspended the mandatory gender pay gap reporting in 2020, leading to some concerns. Charlotte Woodworth, Gender Equality Campaign Director at Business in the Community (BITC), said in a Lexology brief that pay gap reporting is a vital tool in understanding and tackling gender inequality at work.

5 ways employers can support their female employees

Employers who value the importance of women’s work and actively support their female employees can avoid being in the spotlight for discriminatory practices on the ground of sex. Both now and in the future, they’ll also be recognized as a truly inclusive employer, being able to attract and retain the best employees.

If you would like to support your female employees, the key tool is having a flexible approach. Here are 5 concrete ways you can achieve that:

1. Adopt a non-judgmental workplace culture

First things first, you have to make sure that your employees feel comfortable at the office. They should be able to share their concerns without fearing the consequences. To adopt this non-judgmental workplace culture, you must strive to establish clear communication, recognize hard work and good effort, as well as trusting your staff.

2. Reach out to employees who are struggling

As employees may be struggling to cope with their work and familial responsibilities in silence, it’s also vital to proactively reach out to them. Try speaking to them on a personal level through one-to-one check ins or frequent surveys to see what their needs are and how you may be able to help.

3. Rethink productivity and success

In order to help employees who may be struggling, it’s also important that you rethink the definition of productivity and success. Rather than measuring this by the number of hours clocked in, be clear on performance expectations and business outcomes. Moreover, revise your company’s policy to ensure that you’re not discriminating against any employee.

For example: A woman who can’t work the same hours due to having familial responsibilities may not be able to benefit from informal networking opportunities that could lead to promotions.

4. Develop sound policies for dealing with requests

Next, decide what your stance on flexible working policies are. Given the success of remote flexible working during lockdown, it’s likely that more employees will request them even though they may not have a dire need to. Will you deal with this on a case-by-case basis? Or will all employees be eligible for them?

Tip: Check out our Global Employee Benefits Trends Report 2020, where we explore top employee benefits trends, including flexible working, and show you how to roll out the benefit.

5. Be open to non-conventional solutions

Even though you may have come up with a company-wide policy and program for flexible working, you should also remain open to other non-conventional solutions for employees who need them. Think outside the box and brainstorm non-conventional solutions. There could be a number of different options including, but not limited to:

  • Shifting start and end times
  • Changing meeting times, if possible
  • Establishing a job share program
  • Temporary leave, with a contractor to fill in the position
  • And more

Pacific Prime UK can help you with employee benefits and corporate insurance solutions

Perhaps unsurprisingly, health insurance remains a highly coveted benefit due to the healthcare crisis, as we found in our Global Employee Benefits Trends Report 2020. If you’re wondering how to engage your employees during the pandemic, you can look into offering private health insurance plans, as well as coronavirus and employee wellness programs.

As a health insurance broker and employee benefits specialist, Pacific Prime UK has been helping corporations of all sizes and industries implement tailored employee benefits, such as group health insurance plans. Moreover, we also provide a range of corporate insurance solutions.

To learn more about our unique approach to broking and state-of-the-art technology, you are more than welcome to contact our corporate team for a consultation.

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Content Creator at Pacific Prime UK
Suphanida aims to demystify the world of insurance by creating informative and engaging content. As a wordsmith, she spends the majority of her day writing and editing website content, blog posts, in-depth guides, and more.

Outside of work, Suphanida enjoys travelling to new places and immersing herself in different cultures.
Suphanida