Regrettably, the last few months have seen a resurgence of sex discrimination in the workplace, including appalling treatment of pregnant teachers who have faced escalated workplace discrimination during the pandemic
Author: Dr Patrick Roach
Dr Patrick Roach became General Secretary of the NASUWT in 2020, following ten years as Deputy General Secretary and having worked for the Union since 1998.
The impact of coronavirus has shone a light on the multiple areas of institutional sexism and the systemic discrimination and disadvantage experienced by women in the workplace.
The emergency response has also highlighted how it is women workers who are on the front line of keeping the country going.
And we also know that as we experience the second wave of Covid-19 transmission, it is teachers, together with workers in our NHS, social care and other frontline services who are being asked to shoulder the burden, yet again, in defeating this pandemic and keeping the public safe.
And, throughout this pandemic, many women teachers have been exposed to loss of income, often as a result of precarious agency working, together with the prospect of working conditions with the greatest exposure to Covid-19 risk.
There is a clear link between gender inequality, insecure working and the spread of Covid-19.
A national plan to tackle Coronavirus and build our economic recovery needs to have equality for women at its core.
That’s why the NASUWT believes national intervention is important if we are not only going to deliver better pay and working conditions for all teachers and secure equal pay for women members, but also so that we can be confident that teachers will be kept safe at work.
It shouldn’t be the case that where teachers question the covid safety arrangements made by a school, or ask to see a school’s risk assessment, they face the threat of bullying, surveillance masquerading as performance appraisal, or threats to their job.
It also shouldn’t be the case that employers demand that teachers work around the clock to deliver lessons to pupils who are in school, when they go home, to plan and prepare remote education for pupils who are not in school or who are self-isolating. What is needed is more investment in teachers to ensure that no child is left behind. Education recovery simply cannot be done on the cheap.
Throughout the pandemic, we have been instrumental in working to hold the government to account. This crisis has highlighted the need for concerted action to tackle discrimination against women and to advance equality at work.
Regrettably in the last few months, we have seen a resurgence of sex discrimination in the workplace.
The treatment of pregnant women teachers who have faced escalated workplace discrimination during the pandemic is appalling.
We demand that, with the political intention to keep schools open this autumn and winter and as we face a second wave of Covid-19 transmission, pregnant women teachers, especially those in the third trimester, must be entitled to stay at home and work from home.
The impact of the Government’s emergency measures and restrictions, as well as its failed handling of the pandemic overall, has seen women facing a disproportionate burden of unpaid care during the crisis.
During the national lockdown, it was our members – 70% of whom are women – who kept the education of the country going, many doing so juggling the demands of remote education with the demands of looking after their own children and families.
And, as social care services have been brought to the brink or closed, it is often women who have been left to provide unpaid care for those who are required to shield at home.
And, even now, as schools have reopened, where children are sent home, it is women teachers who face disproportionately the prospect of threats that if they stay home to look after a child who is self-isolating, they will be docked pay or disciplined.
In time this pandemic will ease and we all long for the day when we can return to some kind of normality. But whilst we crave a return to that normality, we should resist a return to business as usual.
We must commit to shaping a new normal - one that is predicated on no return to the inequalities that have besieged the world of work, labour markets and society in the past.
Not a normal which says that unequal pay between women and men is just the way things are.
The NASUWT rejects the return to a normal in which the rights of women teachers are undermined as a lack of rules and regulations that are properly enforced.
We reject a return to a normal that is based on under-investment in education and which fails to value and reward all teachers, and especially women.
And, we will campaign to prevent a return to normal which means unscrupulous umbrella companies and employment agencies continue to exploit a predominantly female supply teacher workforce in order to drive down their pay and rip off schools and the taxpayer.
We must act boldly to secure a better future which will deliver economic and social justice for teachers and young people today and for generations to come.