Thursday, September 17, 2020

Coronavirus Update 9-17-2020: The pandemic plight of working moms

There is no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has been tough on employees. A recent report published by Policy Matters Ohio illustrates just how tough it's really been.

  • Ohio had fewer jobs in April 2020 (4,704,000) than at any time in the past 30 years.
  • At the height of COVID-related unemployment, 31.7% of Ohio workers were out of work because of employer layoffs, furloughs, and closures.
  • Unemployment peaked at 17.3%
  • While unemployment and jobless numbers are starting to rebound, there are still nearly 600,000 fewer jobs in Ohio now than at the start of millennium. 

As bleak as these overall statistics are, I want to focus on another aspect of the report—the plight of working mothers.

According to the report, working moms have taken the brunt of the wave of employees working from home.
  • Working moms with young children reduced their work hours four to five times as much as fathers did nationally, widening the work hours gap between men and women by 20-50%. 
  • The current recession has increased the gender pay gap by five percent, seven points higher than what we typically experience in other recessions (in which the gender pay gap is normally reduced by two percent). 

What does this mean?

Men and women are about equally likely to be able to work from home, but the burden of new unpaid care work falls especially heavily on women.… Added child-caregiving responsibilities are competing with women’s paid work and in some cases forcing women out of the labor force altogether, with consequences for their careers that could be permanent. Women may never recover the career losses they face to support their families’ child care needs through the crisis. The pay gap with men, which has been narrowing over recent decades, could be wrenched open once more for years to come.

What is an employer to do?

  1. Remind supervisors and managers that family responsibility discrimination is illegal. While Title VII does not expressly include “family responsibility” as a protected class, the EEOC has long held that Title VII’s prohibits discrimination against parents as parents if you are treating some more favorably than others (e.g., dads better than moms, or men better than moms). There are also, a few states that expressly prohibit parental discrimination. If, for example, you have to make decisions about layoffs, you should be considering whether working parents are disproportionately included.

  2. Consider accommodations to aid working parents. Work from home is already an accommodation, but there are others that could help here. Modified work schedules (which the Department of Labor favors in its FFCRA guidance), designated breaks, and the provision of additional work supplies such as laptops and printers could all ease the burden on parents working from home. Our goal here should be helping employees figure out solutions to get their job done, not harming employees (and the business) by erecting barriers that prevent it.

* Photo by Leonard Beck on Unsplash