End of furlough serves a further financial blow for women

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Chief executive of The Women’s Organisation in Liverpool, Maggie O’Carroll says:

“The end of the Governments furlough scheme, whilst we knew was coming, serves only as a further financial blow for more than 1 million people still supported by the scheme, according to the ONS.

“And frustratingly, though unsurprisingly, this decision will disproportionately affect women.

“Female workers, despite representing less than half of the total national workforce, accounted for the majority of people furloughed throughout lockdown – 51% of those furloughed nationally were women, despite making up only 47% of the total UK workforce. Similar figures are mirrored here in the Liverpool City Region.

“In the last year, women have bore the brunt of home schooling and unpaid care, many losing their jobs through redundancy or having to sacrifice work due to growing pressures in the home. And only in the last week, women, mothers and homemakers have been hit hard again by soaring energy costs and the cuts to the Universal Credit uplift.

“Whitehall keep whittling on about the buoyancy of the UK jobs market, but let’s just be clear, jobs are still unarguably very much at risk as a direct result of the pandemic. Sectors in which women are typically overrepresented, including travel, hospitality and the arts, for example, are faced with a decline in public appetite and tighter restrictions, leaving many in limbo.

“Add to that the change the pandemic has presented in terms of business dynamics – employers who have been forced to adapt to new ways of working throughout the pandemic and with reduced resources, may well decide not to return to the previous norm, which could further exacerbate the situation for people looking to return to work.

“With furlough ending, the stark reality is that many women are now faced with the prospect of having to retrain or accept low-paid, insecure employment. And all of this amidst remaining uncertainty, with experts predicting a surge in COVID cases during the winter months.

“We won’t know the impact of the end of the furlough scheme until later in the year, but what I can say with total confidence is that reverberations will be felt painfully and immediately, particularly amongst women.

“I would ask the Government for two things. Firstly, some clear guidance on support and resources they plan to make available in light of the fact that COVID rates are increasing and businesses are being impacted negatively due to employees having to take time off ill.

“And secondly, I would urge that the Government takes a sex disaggregated approach to policy making, announcing and implementing specific employment, retraining support and childcare investment to enable their retry into the labour market and prevent them from losing out further. This is imperative as part of the levelling up agenda and overall economic recovery plan ”

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