Lauren Howard (9)

January 5, 2021

Posted by Home (ENG)

The social disparities in lockdown.

Lockdown has created a culture of change.
There is no doubt about that – prior to the pandemic, “furlough” didn’t exist and we certainly didn’t hear “unprecedented times” or “new normal” in every conversation.

The pandemic has a widespread lasting impact, financially, emotionally, mentally, and of course physically as we navigate through this virus battle. In light of the announcement by the government last night, the positive news in comparison with the restrictions last Spring is that sectors such as Construction and Manufacturing are continuing to work. With the correct safety measures in place on these sites, this is great news for the economy and the workers within these sectors.

There has been a discussion around white collar vs blue collar and the impact it has on these two groups when lockdown has come into play. However it’s interesting to consider a different grouping of people – the effect lockdown has on men and women. It isn’t as straight forward as white vs blue-collar as we also must consider those in “non-essential” sectors who have had their businesses close during this time.

White-collar workers have adapted to home working relatively easily with advancing technology and the ease of video meetings, recruitment processes including interviewing and onboarding has also moved online ensuring a strong talent pipeline for many sectors. Remote working was once perceived as being reserved for well-paid jobs with flexibility or managerial positions. Lockdown has turned remote working into a reality for many and allowed younger workers and those in varied roles such as customer service and account management roles to work from home. The difficulty is many blue-collar workers do not have this choice, it’s difficult for a thorough induction to take place online, and naturally they need to be onsite to fulfill their work. The close contact services such as personal grooming services, non-essential retail, and of course hospitality have been hugely affected and have suffered the biggest closures with no work from home option.
Blue-collar workers, traditionally roles occupied by men are the least likely to work from home – according to ONS data a fifth of the UK population are unable to work from home and 75% of these are men. This group has been the most affected, by either being furloughed, their site shut in the first lockdown and if they need to isolate it hugely affects their work, whereas white-collar workers can continue working from home should their health allow it.

The graphic below illustrates how both men & women have perceived their work-life conflicts during the pandemic and it’s clear to see the gap, with 24% of women stating their job prevents them from giving time to their family in comparison to 13% of men.

 



There isn’t a clear solution to bridge the gap between men and women, perhaps a different furlough scheme for different sectors would help.
A suggestion would also be aimed at employers to ensure they have a robust employee wellbeing program and can offer assistance to working parents that face work/ family time conflicts. With the closure of UK schools, this could mean staggering working hours around family commitments and giving further flexibility to ensure productivity remains high whilst enjoying a balance at home.