The “remote working” model adopted with the Covid-19 pandemic increased the domestic burden of women. This model was accompanied by discussions on how to establish the balance between ‘home and work life’. According to Antonia Kirkland, ‘Equality Now’s Global Lead for Legal Equality’, governments and employers should encourage practices that help divide domestic work equally between men and women.
Equality Now’s Global Lead for Legal Equality Antonia Kirkland said, “ The socio-economic fallout of COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted women, compounding pre-existing inequalities in the workplace and home. In formal or white-collar sectors, there has been a huge global shift to teleworking. In parallel to this, research has revealed that during the pandemic, women have been more likely to shoulder a greater burden of responsibility for unpaid childcare and household chores in comparison to men”.
‘Some mothers are being squeezed out of the workplace, whether in person or virtual, because of the shortage of available and affordable childcare, and the loss of informal care previously provided by grandparents. In many places, measures to limit the spread of coronavirus mean schools have closed temporarily and moved to remote lessons. The expectations put on mothers, in particular, to take on the lion’s share of childcare and manage their children’s homeschooling has forced many women to reduce their working hours, be furloughed, or drop out of the labor force altogether’ Kirkland added.
She also argues that unequal pay because of gender discrimination meant women in heterosexual family households were even more likely to leave employment, if their spouse or partner brings in more income.
‘All parents – regardless of their sex or gender - should be able to freely choose what childcare arrangements best suit them and their family. We need to foster societies in which work within the home is valued equally to paid employment, responsibilities within the family are shared equally, and affordable, quality child care is readily available’ she added.
GOVERNMENTS SHOULD RESPOND TO THE DISCRIMATION BY LAW
‘No matter what the model of working is, governments should ensure equality and non-discrimination on the basis of sex and gender in all their laws – whether it is in the Constitution, employment and labor laws, or other laws relating to the family. They should also provide equal paid parental leave and universal child care’ Kirkland said.
‘COVID19 has resulted in a massive increase in the amount of time people are working online, and legislation needs to adequately address workplace sexual harassment that occurs in the digital sphere. Current laws and policies are not keeping up with how perpetrators are using technology and the internet to sexually harass people online. In many cases, this should be treated with the same seriousness as offenses that occur in person, and there needs to be greater clarity about what obligations governments, employers and tech companies have to ensure suitable protections are in place, victims have effective recourse, and perpetrators are suitably punished’ she added.
HOUSEHOLD LABOUR SHOULD BE DIVIDED EQUALLY
She said that the unprecedented disruption to work practices triggered by the pandemic should be capitalized upon by companies and government as an opportunity to permanently shift to more flexible work arrangements that enable both mothers and fathers to manage work-related activities alongside their care responsibilities.
‘Women workers have frequently been held back because of gender stereotypes, unequal pay for equal work, and a lack of flexibility in formal sector jobs. Remote working has facilitated new flexible working patterns that have created the opportunity for men to do more on the home front. The state and employers should be fostering inclusive work practices such as allowing employees to split workdays between the home and office’ she said.
‘Equal paid parental leave and child care provision is also needed. This will help enable a more equal division of domestic labor between men and women, and boost female participation in the workforce by making it easier for women to return to employment after maternity leave’ she added.
‘Laws and policies that promote gender equality in the workplace, whatever form or model it takes, and in the family should be enacted and implemented’.
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