‘I’ve lost my job and am about to give birth’

Linda J. Dodson

It’s supposed to be one of the happiest times of your life, but for many women being pregnant and going on maternity leave during Covid-19 has turned into a nightmare. Hundreds are being told they’re losing their jobs while others are facing having to quit a career they love because they can’t get any childcare.

With many schools shut until September, there has been a ripple effect on women’s lives. While the government has made great strides in encouraging and supporting women back into work – and saw the country enjoy the economic benefits which came with that, post-pandemic a different picture is emerging – one which many have warned could turn the clock back on women’s progress by several decades.

While, pre-pandemic, a record 75 per cent of women in this country had a job, think tank the Institute of Fiscal Studies has found that since lockdown began, mothers are almost 50 per cent more likely than fathers to have lost their job, taken unpaid leave or volunteered to be furloughed, with women also more likely to be caring for an elderly relative as well as children.

Not only are women more likely to be working in sectors that have had to shut down during lockdown, including retail and hospitality, research has shown that many who are on or returning from maternity leave have also been illegally singled out for redundancy. One campaigner told the Telegraph that at least 13 new or soon-to-be mothers lost their jobs each day last month.

Joeli Brearley of campaign group Pregnant Then Screwed said before lockdown it would usually get around 100 calls a month from pregnant women or new mothers facing issues at work.

“Now it’s around 500 calls per month. As the waves of redundancies have started to hit, about 80 per cent of the calls last month were from women who’ve lost their job,” she added. That means at least 400 pregnant women and new mothers were made redundant in June: around 13 each day. There are likely to be many more who have not been in contact with the group. 

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