Furlough and SEISS ‘continues to overlook’ labour inequalities – Rishi Sunak ‘must’ act
Rishi Sunak says 'all support will be reviewed in budget'
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Rishi Sunak launched both the furlough scheme and SEISS in 2020 in a bid to support workers struggling with the impacts of coronavirus. The Chancellor has extended this support a number of times but his efforts have been criticised for overlooking or excluding millions of families.
Today, the Women and Equalities committee produced a report on gendered economic differences and focused specifically on these two schemes.
The committee noted the following: “The Government acted at considerable speed to design and implement schemes to protect jobs, and the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) and Self Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) have provided a vital safety net to millions of people.
“However, the design of these schemes overlooked – and in some respects continues to overlook – the specific and well-understood labour market and caring inequalities faced by women.
“This demonstrates the importance of equality analyses.”
In light of this, the committee went on to call for the following changes: “We recommend that schemes to support employees and the self-employed should be informed by an Equality Impact Assessment, drawing on evidence of existing inequalities.
“The Government must conduct and publish Equality Impact Assessments of the CJRS and SEISS alongside its response to this Report.
“We believe this approach would better protect those already at disadvantage in the labour market, including women, and could inform more effective responses to future crises.”
The committee went on to show concern that the Government’s priorities for recovery are “heavily gendered in nature”.
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They argued investment Investment plans that are skewed towards male-dominated sectors have the potential to create unequal outcomes for men and women, exacerbating existing inequalities.
As such, they called on the Treasury to provide Equality Impact Assessments for the Industrial Strategy and ‘New Deal’.
These could include a Gender Beneficiary Assessment of investments from the industrial strategy to date, including receipts of grants, gender occupational composition of companies operating infrastructure contracts, innovation grants and training participants and outcomes.
The Treasury was also urged to undertake an economic growth assessment of the Women’s Budget Group’s care-led recovery proposals.
The committee urged the Treasury to act on this within six months and Deborah Frost, the chief executive at Personal Group and one of four female chief executives in the largest 200 AIM-listed companies, reflected on the proposals: “This report highlights that we could see a whole generation lost from the workforce.
“In ten years’ time, when we’re looking for our senior female leaders, they’re just not going to be there.
“Too many women have had to drop out of the workforce because they have caring responsibilities and are over-represented in roles that have relatively low potential for remote work.
“Throughout the pandemic, the government has put reactive measures in place to support companies and workers – but now we need to plan for the future.
“Gender pay gap reporting must be urgently reinstated to make sure women don’t suffer real hidden damage and long-term economic impact.
“Employers also have a responsibility here to embrace flexible working and open up the job market to women in a way that we haven’t seen before.”
Under current plans, both the furlough and self-employment scheme are set to end as spring arrives.
However, many expect the Chancellor to extend support in the upcoming budget, which is scheduled in for March 3.
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