Research shows that the Covid-19 pandemic is having a disproportionate impact on women.  Women are taking on most of the unpaid care work, meaning they may have to reduce their hours of paid work or give up paid work entirely, and appear to be losing their jobs in greater numbers than men.  There is a real danger that so much of the progress that has been made towards gender equality will be undone.

How can employers help to support the women in their workforce and help to ensure that they are able to remain employed?

Employers already have a legal duty to "reasonably" consider flexible working requests but, now more than ever it is important to take such requests seriously.  Employers should take the time to consider whether roles can be performed from home, on a part time basis, or outside of standard working hours (for example, allowing parents and guardians to be away from work for the school drop-off and pick-up).

Suzy Levy, the managing director of The Red Plate consultancy told the Guardian that “for men working from home for the first time, Covid-19 has given them a taste of what life could be like.” Women are more likely to be able to return to work if their partners feel empowered to take time off to care for children. Employers should think about reviewing their parental leave, shared parental leave and paternity leave policies and consider how they can adapt workplace culture to ensure that men feel able to take family leave.

Promotion and bonus criteria often focus on the number of hours billed or accounts won.  While all employees may find it harder than usual to meet these targets during this crisis, women are likely to be more adversely impacted.  Take a look at your policies and try to ensure they do not unreasonably hold women back. Perhaps you can think of fairer ways to assess and reward contribution.

Due to the pandemic, businesses were not required to submit their gender pay gap reports for 2019/20 earlier this year. However, this does not mean that businesses should simply forget about the pay gap this year.  Analysis of gender pay gap data shows that it will take almost 200 years to close the gap at the rate we are moving; by ignoring the problem for a year we will delay progress even further and exacerbate the impact the COVID-19 crisis is having on women for years to come.