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The impact of COVID-19 on work and equalities

The COVID-19 crisis has had a huge impact on the world of work while also shining a light on continued inequalities across the global workplace.

In response, members of the Work and Equalities Institute at Alliance Manchester Business School have spent the last few months writing a series of thought-provoking articles on the impact of the pandemic in their specific fields of research.

Professor Jill Rubery, Director of the Institute, has written a number of commentaries. In one article she discusses the importance of building gender equality into recovery plans from the COVID-19 pandemic, while in another she takes a detailed look at the UK government’s furloughing and self-employment support schemes, analysing their performance and comparing them to similar schemes brought in by other European countries.

The crisis has also raised serious concerns about the impact on precarious and vulnerable workers, many of whom found themselves on the frontline during the crisis. In another article Marti Lopez-Andreu investigates some of these key workers in areas such as logistics and transport, among others.

The transport and logistics sector is also the focus of an article by Sheena Johnson and Lynn Holdsworth who discuss the changes to the working environment in the sector since the pandemic struck, and how those working in the haulage industry were identified as key workers given the importance of maintaining a supply network during the height of the crisis.

Gig economy

The importance of gig workers also came to light when the pandemic first struck with, for instance, delivery workers helping cafes and restaurants stay open in some form during lockdown. A commentary from Cristina Inversi, Aude Cefaliello and Tony Dundon looks at the health and safety risks, and legal loopholes, of gig economy work.

Likewise an article from Miguel Martinez Lucio and Jo McBride discuss the question of how we have failed to value the work and importance of those in the area of cleaning and hygiene-related employment more generally. They discuss the need to now consider how such workers are supported through a greater framework with respect and dignity being paramount.

Meanwhile in the wake of the pandemic a radical reassessment of what is considered ‘key work’ has also taken place. For many key workers, however, this status is not reflected in their salary, employment rights, or social perception.

Abbie Winton and Debra Howcroft discuss the disproportionate risk/reward equation key workers – particularly women – face and how the COVID-19 crisis will impact their future, and what policymakers can do to address inequalities at work.

Finally, homeworking has of course also seen huge growth during the pandemic. An article by Tony Dundon and colleagues Lee Stringer and Stephen Mustchin also looks at the long-term sustainability of homeworking and suggests it is high risk and fraught with tension.

You can read all the articles here