As we edge closer to a full lifting of the lockdown, we turn to what comes next for the women we support.
Women have been more severely impacted by unemployment since the pandemic, according to the Trades Union Congress’ recent report. Between September to November 2020, 178,000 women were made redundant. Meanwhile, by the end of February 2021, over 2.3 million women were furloughed compared to 2.1 million men, as the Women’s Budget Group notes.
Women tend to work more in sectors hardest hit by the lockdowns and business closures, like hospitality, retail, and personal care. In fact, women accounted for 60% of the job losses in accommodation and food, and 58% of job losses in wholesale and retail, according to the TUC. They also accounted for nearly 60% of job losses in other services, which includes customer services such as hairdressers, personal grooming and care.
We've been seeing the impact of this first-hand as more women come to us for employability support and work placements, including former clients who have been furloughed or made redundant. For women with convictions, finding a job is already challenging due to employers’ stigma and preconceptions about people’s pasts. The job crisis certainly hasn’t made it easier. But finally, the tide is beginning to shift.
We successfully supported 3x more women into work in May compared to March.
We have been receiving more job openings from employers in recent weeks. The types of jobs are also changing. During the pandemic, we saw a demand for frontline service jobs, such as at COVID-19 testing centres or care homes. Recently, we are beginning to see a return of hospitality opportunities.
In a highly encouraging trend, our clients have secured four times more interviews in April than in February. We successfully supported three times more women into work in May compared to March. These recent placements include positions at a hotel and a theme park – a direct impact of lockdown easing.
Throughout all the uncertainty, we have been incredibly inspired by our clients’ perseverance and dedication to finding work. “One of our clients had faced repeated rejections from applications she had made directly herself, which is likely to have been at least in part as a result of her conviction. The employers we work with are really open to employing people with convictions and see people's talent, not their past. We were delighted to successfully place her in an exciting permanent role, and she couldn't be happier,” our Head of Employment Katy Doolan shares.
This certainly confirms what we know: women with convictions tend to be dedicated, engaged, and resilient candidates. As industry insights show, companies who employ people with convictions have praised their strong work ethic and commitment. People who have convictions also tend to be more loyal to the company that gives them their second chance, so stay in the job for longer. Good for society, and good for business.
We hope more employers will get on board so that as workplaces reopen and the economy rebounds, women with convictions are not left behind.
Of course, given the uncertainty that comes with this pandemic, our optimism is tempered by a healthy dose of caution. The TUC reminds us, “There is a significant risk to women’s employment going forwards.” We are noticing a trend where employers are offering 6- to 12-month fixed-term contracts, which shows that despite the encouraging rise in hirings, employers are still proceeding with care in case of future lockdowns.
We are also mindful that when the current furlough scheme ends in September, it will almost certainly trigger another wave of redundancies which will more acutely affect women as women are more likely to be furloughed than men.
One way we are increasing our support for women in this changing landscape is by expanding our partnerships with a wider range of industry sectors. “We are influencing change at the top level and developing resources to support women into self-employment as well as volunteering opportunities and apprenticeships,” Katy adds.
For a sustainable and inclusive economic recovery, employers have a huge role to play. “We are always excited to build relationships with businesses and organisations who get the importance of inclusive hiring. That includes women with convictions, who offer untapped potential, a wealth of experience, and ambition to relaunch their careers,” Working Chance Chief Executive Natasha Finlayson says. “We really hope more employers will get on board so that as workplaces reopen and the economy rebounds, women with convictions are not left behind.”