Unions and campaigners urge Equalities Commission to investigate govt Covid-19 response

Campaigners argue that the government is breaching the Public Sector Equality Duty in its handling of the pandemic.

19 Feb 2021| News

A group of unions and campaigners have written to the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) urging it to investigate the legality of the government’s response to Covid-19.

The letter, signed by two dozen equality campaigners including the TUC, Amnesty International, the Fawcett Society and Save the Children, said the government had not taken into account the disproportionate impact of its pandemic strategy on women.

It highlighted the fact childcare burdens disproportionately fall on women when schools are closed, as well as that female workers are less likely to be eligible for statutory sick pay due to their higher probability of experiencing insecure working conditions.

“The policy decisions taken by government and other key public bodies in response to coronavirus are worsening the impact of the pandemic and deepening inequalities faced by women. The consequences of these decisions will affect women for years to come,” the letter said.

The campaigners also pointed out the acted in contravention of the Equality Act 2010 by not carrying out impact assessments.

“The Equality Act has somehow been swept off the table as privileged fathers in politics [often with nannies] decide the fate of mothers,” Anna Whitehouse of the Mother Pukka campaign group, told the Guardian.

“Women are being forced out of the economy as the government watches on, seemingly nonplussed by the fact that we are going to wake up in 1951.”

Although the letter also referred to the fact self-employed women were being short-changed by the fact the Self Employment Income Scheme was set-up to calculate women’s grants partly on the basis of their maternity pay rather than their normal earnings, a court judgment has since dismissed the argument that this constitutes indirect gender discrimination.