This is why the coronavirus bill will hit women hardest according to experts

Sophie Gallagher
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The government has passed new emergency powers, known as the Coronavirus Act 2020, aimed at helping ministers deal with the ongoing Covid-19 outbreak across the country.

The measures were drafted in record time and passed in both the House of Commons and House of Lords in just three days, before officially becoming English law at 1pm on Thursday.

The bill strengthens the powers of the state, local councils, police forces, and health professionals in a bid to more effectively enforce the nationwide lockdown and prevent people from undertaking non-essential travel or gathering in groups.

“This is not enough to live on,” says Dr Stephenson. “And women are less likely to be entitled to sick pay (because of higher self-employment) anyway.

"Despite being less likely to receive sick pay, women are also more likely to be working in professions exposed to the virus like health (77 per cent of workers), social care (80 per cent), teaching (63 per cent at primary level) and in supermarkets.”

“[And] there are anecdotal reports that PPE (personal protective equipment) designed for men is not keeping women safe. This also means they may be more likely to contract the virus and rely on statutory sick pay, although clearly it needs to be increased for everybody’s benefit.”

Women are more likely to be carers

There are no provisions in the bill to increase the carer’s allowance, which is currently just £66.15 per week. Women are overrepresented in care roles, both paid and unpaid and in the health sector. The majority of those in need of care are women too.

“The work of women again is being unrecognised and undervalued.” says Dr Stephenson.

Women are more likely to be looking after children

The bill does not make any mention of increasing support for those now taking care of children full time through child benefit or paid parental leave.

And despite many families now all working remotely or working from home (as mandated by the government if you are not a key worker), women will continue to take on the majority of childcare responsibilities and budgeting for the family home, says the WBG.

“Increases to Carer’s Allowance or Child Benefit would provide significant assistance to women,” says Dr Stephenson.

Women are more likely to be trapped with abusers

There are also no provisions in the bill for victims and survivors of domestic abuse who will be isolated with their abuser – the majority of whom will be women.

Women are at significantly higher risk of domestic abuse. The lack of provisions (such as accommodation for women who become homeless) for survivors/victims as well as the threat of forcible isolation must be considered,” says Dr Stephenson.

Particular groups of women including disabled women, migrant women and Black, Asian and Ethnic Minority women will face specific and often more severe impacts.

Anyone who requires help or support can contact the National Domestic Violence Helpline which is open 24/7 365 days per year on 0808 2000 247 or via their website www.nationaldomesticviolencehelpline.org.u

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