International mechanisms to revalue women's work: research

The report reviews different approaches to redress the undervaluation of women’s work and assesses their applicability to the Scottish employment context. The report finds that undervaluation of women’s work is a driver of the gender pay gap and makes recommendations to alleviate this disparity.

Appendix 2 – Literature Review

This literature review examines issues affecting Women in Scotland’s pay and conditions in so-called ‘elementary’ occupations (such as cleaning and catering), adult health and social care, early learning and childcare (ELC) and sales and customer service. The report highlights the importance of occupational and sectoral gender-segregation for the valuation of women’s work – that is where particular occupations or sectors are disproportionately inhabited by women or men, as in the four covered in this report.

Pay in the occupations considered in this review is determined to varying degrees by national, sectoral and organisational collective bargaining and the value of contracts awarded by public bodies, but also procurement regulations. Variation in pay between occupations is influenced by the extent to which workers are directly employed by national, regional or local authorities, or are in services that have been privatised or outsourced to contractors. The review considers the impact of the privatisation and outsourcing of public services, particularly social care, and considers proposals for a National Care Service and macro-economic strategies investing in the care economy. It examines the importance of the National Living Wage, but more importantly the Living Wage Foundation (rLW) wage in cleaning and catering. It also considers the potential impact of current equal pay cases involving national supermarkets on pay and the GPG in retail work.

The review begins by setting out the Scottish labour market and the governmental and legal landscape, including the Scottish Government’s (SG) vision for fair work and the work of the FWC. It then explores pay systems covering public service workers, and mechanisms that have been introduced to secure equal pay, on the basis that these might cover a proportion of health and social care workers, early learning and childcare workers and possibly catering workers. Reflecting the fact that women are disproportionately directly or indirectly employed in publicly funded services where there is scope for SG influence, there is a focus on collective bargaining and the currency and practical implementation of existing job evaluation schemes in key Scottish public sector organisations.

The literature review considers how the pay of all four occupations is determined, including in the private and third sectors. There is a focus on health and social care, because of its governance by public funding regimes, the steps already taken by the Scottish Government to introduce the rLW and the wealth of literature on the valuation of care work. The review takes an intersectional approach differentiating between women’s work experiences by race and ethnicity, migration status, age and disability. It also examines evidence of the legacy of austerity measures and Covid-19 on women’s work, in particular evidence of the disproportionate effect on ME women.

The Gender-Segregated Labour Market

National statistics show that between a third and a half (42%) of women in Scotland work in gender-segregated occupations and of this proportion 17% are in personal services occupations, 15% in administrative and secretarial, and 11% in sales and customer services[129]. Just under one third (30%) of men are employed in occupations with high levels of gender segregation – 19% in skilled trades and 11% in process, plant and machinery[130]. Figure 1 illustrates the extent of occupational segregation in Scotland.

Figure 1: Proportion of Employment Aged 16 and Over by Gender and Occupation, Scotland, 2019 [131]
Chart shows that women signifcantly outnumber men in personal service, and adminsitrative occupations, while men significantly outnumber women in manual labour and skilled trades.

Table 1 shows similar segregation by sector, with over a third of female employment in the public sector compared to under one fifth of male employment. In terms of sectors, women predominate in private catering, retail and cleaning sectors, while half of female employment is in the private early learning and childcare sector. Among women employed in health and social care, around one third work in the private sector and well over half (58%) in the public sector – close to the figures for all employed[132].

Table 1: Proportion of Employment by Public/Private/Third Sectors and Defined Industry Sectors, 2019 [133]
All Employment (%) Health and Social Care (%) Retail (%) Catering (%) ELC (%) Cleaning (%)
All Private Sector 70.9 30.8 99.0 93.9 51.2 93.4
Public Sector 26.1 57.4 - - - -
Third Sector 3.0 11.8 - - - -
Male Private Sector 80.9 27.7
Public Sector 17.3 56.9 - - - -
Third Sector 1.9 15.4 - - - -
Female Private Sector 60.5 31.6 98.6 89.8 49.8 94.6
Public Sector 35.3 57.5 - - - -
Third Sector 34.2 10.8 - - - -

Figure 2 illustrates the gender breakdown by standard industrial categories.

Figure 2: Proportion of Sector Employment Aged 16 and Over by Gender, Scotland, 2019 [134]
Chart showing relative proportions of women and men in a number of employment sectors. Women are overrepresented in health and social care, and education, and significantly underrepresented in construction and trades.

Almost half of women in Scotland (46%) are concentrated in public, administration and defence, education and health and social work sectors. Here pay is determined by national sectoral collective bargaining agreements[135] and there is thus potential for equality bargaining, although the effect of privatisation on the occupations in question cannot be under-estimated[136]. Just under half (44%) of men work in construction, manufacturing, transport, storage and information, energy and water and agriculture, forestry and fishing, where sectoral collective bargaining is less comprehensive[137].

Sectoral and occupational segregation underpins the GPG[138] in Scotland, which was 10.9% for all employees and 3% for full-time employees in 2020[139]. While the GPG is persistent there have been substantial reductions since 2019 when the figures were 14% and 7% respectively. The overall GPG is twice as large in the private than the public sector (21% and 10% in 2020). As elsewhere, the GPG is higher in professional, scientific and technical activities (25%) and financial and insurance activities (23%) and reductions in the GPG can represent a narrowing of the differences between men and women’s pay at the bottom of the pay distribution. In Scotland, as elsewhere, the GPG is highest amongst older employees, aged 50-64 (18% GPG) and there is evidence of a ‘motherhood penalty’ (8% GPG among those aged 35-49 compared to -3% for full-time employees aged 16-24)[140]. The latter reinforces UK research that shows by the age of 42, mothers who are in full-time work are earning 11% less than full-time women without children[141].

European-wide research has suggested the impact of austerity measures following the 2008 financial crash on the public sector GPG[142]. The average unadjusted GPG in the public sector across the EU-28 between 2007 and 2018 increased during recession and has only just started to recover, although there is variation between countries – austerity measures have differed in their ferocity between EU states and have had differential outcomes. Two measures of austerity impact the GPG. Both increases in unemployment and cuts in expenditure on public sector pay increase the GPG. The latter will reflect both job cuts and pay freezes and cuts and suggests that public sector pay policies under austerity have impacted negatively on the GPG. The GPG is wider for those earning most and narrower at the bottom of pay distributions, supporting the suggestion that austerity may cause convergence between men and women’s pay at the lower end. The trend may be affected by trade union attempts to protect the lowest paid against pay cuts or freezes or an outcome of statutory minimum pay policies.

Close the Gap note a fluctuation in the Scottish GPG during 2011 and 2012 where there was a significant jump in the combined mean pay gap from 16% to 18%[143]. It suggests that the fluctuation reflects the high number of public sector workers, the majority of whom are women, who have been affected by the public sector pay freeze, job losses and reductions in the number of posts. Close the Gap propose that this trend highlights how economy-wide changes affect the GPG. It also highlights the decline in the GPG for the lowest earners and state that this may be a result of the introduction of the rLW across of the public sector, the commitment to pay the rLW for adult social care workers and the impact of the introduction of the National Living Wage by the UK Government.

Close the Gap also note the absence of Scottish data to illuminate how the different labour market experiences of disabled, ME, migrant and young women are reflected in the GPG. From UK Labour Force Survey it concludes that ME women cannot be treated as a homogenous group.

Close the Gap has also indicated the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on Women in Scotland[144]. It argues that women in low-paid jobs will be particularly affected by job disruption and the need for more unpaid care, impacting their ability to do paid work. Women are also less likely to be in work that can be done from home during periods of social distancing, resulting in a greater risk to their job retention and financial security. Close the Gap identify that overall, women are more likely to work in a sector that has been shut down (18%, compared to 14% for men), but these sectors also have an over-representation of ME women, migrant women and young women (39% of women under 25 work in these sectors, compared to 26% of men aged under 25). Since women are the majority of low-paid workers, and account for two-thirds of workers earning less than the rLW, receiving only 80% of their usual salary through the Job Retention Scheme may push women into poverty. Increased unemployment and underemployment are more likely to affect women.

Legislative Environment

The Scotland Act 1998 (as amended in the Scotland Act 2012 and 2016) gave power to Scotland to establish a Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Executive, which have jurisdiction over devolved issues such as education, the environment and health. However, employment remains a reserved issue, under the control of Westminster. The principal piece of legislation covering equality in Scotland is the Equality Act (2010), which applies across England, Scotland and Wales. The Equality Act (2010) sets out the legislative parameters for addressing discrimination based on nine protected characteristics[145] and differentiates between direct and indirect, victimisation and harassment. The Equality Act 2010 is enforced through a two-pronged approach: legal compliance through the Employment Tribunal system and administrative sanctions through the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC). The Employment Tribunal system hears complaints for breaches of law brought by individual workers or employees. Administrative sanctions are applied by the EHRC after carrying out investigations, if they find a breach of the law has occurred. However, as employment remains a reserved area, the Scottish Government has no current scope for amending the Equality Act 2010.

Potential Devolved Powers

Scope for amending the Equality Act 2010 may widen in the future, if further devolved powers are granted. Twelve equality organisations submitted a call to the Smith Commission[146] to encourage the Commission to consider the devolution of equality law on the basis that it is essential to secure social justice and equality in Scotland[147]. The Scottish Refugee Council based these calls on three key areas of difference between Scotland and the rest of the UK: a different demographic makeup giving rise to unique equality issues; areas of Scottish law that are already devolved intersecting with UK equality law that has not been designed with these differences in mind; and the Scottish Government having the appropriate local knowledge to allow it to legislate appropriately[148]. Macdonald[149] furthers these calls for devolved equality law, claiming fully devolved equality law will help create a ‘gender-equal Scotland’. The third annual report by the First Minister’s National Advisory Council on Women and Girls focuses on Scotland’s gender architecture and its ability to secure justice for women in Scotland. The report recommends full devolution of equality legislation and policy-making to ‘support the creation of a systemic intersectional gender architecture by placing the power to legislate and regulate around equality’[150]. This approach would allow Scotland to establish their own equality regulator that requires public bodies to ‘involve the communities their decisions affect’[151].

The Role of the Public Sector Equality Duty

While devolving equality law more broadly is currently under debate, the Scottish Government does have limited power over equality law in the public sector. Importantly, the Equality Act (2010) created the Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED), which uses reflexive legislation to place additional duties on the public sector across the UK and replaces the previous specific duties on disability, race and gender. The purpose of the specific duties is to help public bodies comply with the general duty. The main thrust of the general and specific duties is for public sector organisations to have ‘due regard’ to ‘eliminate discrimination, harassment, victimisation and any other conduct prohibited by the Act’ based on the nine protected characteristics, although in a more limited sense for marriage and civil partnership. There are different specific duties for the four nations, however, with the Welsh and Scottish duties more prescriptive than the English duty.

The specific duty that applies to Scotland is the ‘The Equality Act 2010 (Specific Duties) (Scotland) Regulations 2012’ and subsequent amendments. Under the Scottish specific duty, Scottish public sector organisations must publish GPG information and an equal pay statement. The reports must cover the whole authority and should include both part-time and full-time staff. Overtime is excluded from the analysis. The report must calculate the gap as a percentage difference between the hourly pay for men and the hourly pay for women. In 2013, when the Scottish specific duties first came into force, only organisations with 150 plus employees were covered. Since amendments were made in 2016, organisations with 20 plus employees need to comply with reporting. These requirements are stronger than the specific duty for England, where public bodies need only produce GPG information and not equal pay statements and the threshold for reporting is 150 plus employees.

The EHRC carried out a review of the Equality Act 2010 (Specific Duties) (Scotland) Regulations 2012 in three areas: the duty to publish equality outcomes and report progress, the duty to gather and use employee information and the duty to publish GPG information[152]. If found that 69 out of 148 authorities had data that showed a change in the GPG in the period 2013 and 2017. Nearly half of the 47 authorities who had data that could be compared both in 2013 and 2017, saw a decrease of under 2% in the GPG, with 17 authorities seeing an increase of over 2%. EHRC Scotland also found poor levels of reporting compliance, although this improved towards the end of the analysis period, which they attribute to an increased understanding of reporting rules[153]. While the specific duty in Scotland is more prescriptive than in England, key concerns remain. For example, Scottish Water found a GPG slightly in favour of women, using the Equality Act 2010 (Specific Duties) (Scotland) Regulations 2012 calculations, but slightly in favour of men, using the Equality Act 2010 (Gender Pay Gap Information) Regulations 2017[154]. The Coronavirus (Scotland) Act 2020 permits organisations to forgo detailed reporting requirements if it helps them respond to the pandemic. However, the law requires public bodies to still publish equality outcomes, GPG information, equal pay reports and their progress in achieving these outcomes because it deems that equality remains essential[155].

The Scottish Parliament has powers, under the Scotland Act 1998, to encourage equal opportunities and impose duties on Scottish public bodies and those cross-border public bodies that operate in Scotland to achieve the general duty under the Public Sector Equality Duty. Therefore, control over the Equality Act 2010 (Specific Duties) (Scotland) Regulations 2012 provides some scope for the Scottish Government to take action in relation to the undervaluation of women’s work.

Employment Tribunals

The same Employment Tribunal (ET) rules govern employment tribunals in England, Wales and Scotland. However, there are some differences in the way the tribunals operate. Firstly, witness statements are not generally used in Scotland, instead solicitors draft witness statements that are not exchanged with the opposing side and oral evidence is given on the day through examination in chief[156]. Furthermore, Employment Law judgements made in the Court of Session are not legally binding in England and Wales, but are in Scotland[157]. Wider differences between the Scottish and English and Welsh system are expected when the Employment Tribunal procedures are devolved following the Smith Commission. It has been suggested that specialist divisions in the Sheriff Court could deal with equality issues and powers to create these divisions lie in The Courts Reform (Scotland) Act 2014. The management of the reserved Tribunals would be devolved, while Westminster would retain power over the legislation[158]. These plans have now been put on hold until at least 2022[159], but there could be scope for addressing the GPG through the procedures used in the Scottish Employment Tribunals, for example ET judges providing recommendations that apply to the wider workforce and not just the employee who brought the case, as currently happens.

Fair Work Action Plan and Fair Work First

Fair Work is the Scottish Government’s strategic foundation, with the Fair Work Framework established to achieve this goal by 2025. The FWC was set up in 2015 and is an independent advisory body to the Scottish Government. The Fair Work Framework was published by the FWC in 2016 and includes five key principles: effective voice, respect, security, opportunity and fulfilment[160]. This framework is to be used as best practice guidance and to identify areas for development.

Fair Work First is the key plank the Scottish Government uses to encourage employers to be more diverse and create inclusive workplaces where employees have security of pay and contracts, can improve skills and achieve effective voice in the workplace. Importantly, Fair Work First recommends employers commit to key criteria; using appropriate channels for employee voice including trade union recognition, investment in workforce development, use of zero-hours contracts[161] only where it is appropriate, positive action to address the GPG and make workplaces more inclusive and payment of the rLW[162].

The Fair Work Action Plan is being used by the Scottish Government to address three broad themes:

  • Support employers to adopt Fair Work practices
  • Deliver Fair Work to a diverse and inclusive workforce
  • Embed Fair Work across the Scottish Government

There is a sixteen-point plan to achieve the three broad themes:

1. Work with employer and partners to deliver Fair Work First. This goal includes asking employers to commit to the following criteria:

  • Voice channels such as trade union recognition
  • Workforce development
  • No inappropriate use of zero-hours contracts
  • Gender Pay Gap action plans and creating a diverse workforce
  • Real Living Wage (sometimes known as Scottish Living Wage)

The Scottish Government will extend the Fair Work First criteria public contracts, grants, funding streams and business support.

2. Develop a benchmarking tool for employers. The focus of this tool is to allow employers to critically assess their organisations. In January 2021, a Fair Work Employer Support Tool was published to help employers self-assess their fair work practices[163].

3. Create an online Fair Work service for small and micro employers that provides a central point of information. This hub will be linked to the Enterprise and Skills portal.

4. Refresh the Scottish Business Pledge to ensure it is compatible with the Fair Work First Framework. This is a voluntary pledge that focuses on boosting productivity by promoting fairness, equality and sustainable employment[164] based on the business case for equality. To sign up organisations must be headquartered in Scotland or have an employee body in Scotland, pay all employees over 18 the rLW, not use zero-hours contracts inappropriately, take action to address the GPG and commit to achieving five of the following[165]:

  • Invest in skills and a diverse workforce
  • Innovation
  • Workforce engagement
  • Internationalisation
  • Prompt payment
  • Supporting the community
  • Environmental impact

5. Focus on creating a Fair Work ethos in the future workforce. This action point includes educating the future workforce about Fair Work with a focus on raising awareness of gender issues.

6. Co-host an International Fair Work Summit in collaboration with the FWC. The goal of this point is to showcase Scotland’s work on an international stage[166].

7. Extend the workplace equality fund to enable more employers to address long-term barriers in the labour market.

8. Support the Scottish Trade Union Congress (STUC) with funding for an additional round of Fair Work and Trade Union Modernization.

9. Reflecting the pledge the Scottish Government made with the National Performance Framework[167], the Scottish Government will work with the STUC to increase collective bargaining coverage. Other STUC collaborations include work on the procurement process, in the early learning sector and hospitality sector.

10. Address issues in the collaborative economy, including developing employers’ knowledge of Fair Work and produce guidance for workers about their rights.

11. Support the FWC to run an inquiry into the construction sector, which faces significant challenges in terms of Fair Work. In addition to developing a Fair Work Charter, win collaboration with the Scottish Futures Trust.

12. Address the challenges faced by frontline social care sector workers. The FWC undertook a report into the sector in 2019[168] and the Scottish Government commit to consider and respond to the recommendations of this report.

13. Commit to making funding available for the rLW to be paid to all workers delivering funded childcare places in the early learning sector. Additionally, the Scottish Government will work with the Poverty Alliance to build a Living Wage Nation, focusing on increasing the wages of 25,000 people.

14. Address the needs of unpaid carers through the Carer Positive employer accreditation scheme.

15. Within the Scottish Government develop a Fair Work Ministerial Working Group to move forward a strategic approach to embedding Fair Work across the Government.

16. Continue to campaign for Employment Law to be devolved and set out the SG proposals including replacing the NMW and NLW with rLW and repealing the Trade Union Act.

Fair Work and Social Care FWC Report Recommendations

In 2019 the FWC carried out a report into the Social Care sector in Scotland. The sector is reported to be in crisis, with increased demand, funding pressures and high staff turnover rates[169] The key recommendations from the report include:

1) A sector-level body to ensure that social care workers have effective voice in the development, design and delivery of social care service. This body would comprise employers, unions, policy makers and other relevant parties. Their scope would be to scrutinise work practices and provide information and include policy. In time, it could become a forum for sectoral bargaining.

2) Minimum contract standards should be developed for publicly funded social care services that are in line with the Fair Work Framework and Fair Work First.

3) Commissioning practices in social care need to be reconsidered. This can be achieved through minimum contract standards and sector level engagement between purchasers, providers and those who deliver social care services.

4) Key stakeholders in the sector should apply the Fair Work Framework with the necessary commitments.

5) These recommendations should be incorporated into the Scottish Government’s Fair Work Action Plan and Gender Pay Action Plan.

Collective Bargaining

As above, Women in Scotland are more likely to be employed in the public sector and thus their pay and conditions are determined, directly or indirectly, by national collective agreements enshrining single status and job evaluation. Two key agreements are Agenda for Change in the NHS and Single Status in local government.

Single Status

In 1997, the UK Single Status agreement in local government brought manual and white-collar workers together within a single collective agreement (the ‘Green Book’) and established a new pay and grading system based on the principle of equal pay for work of equal value and a jointly agreed job evaluation scheme (JES)[170]. In 1999 the Scottish Joint Council concluded its own Single Status agreement, the National Agreement on Pay and Condition (Scotland ‘Red Book’). This agreement states that employees will be afforded equal opportunities in employment irrespective of disability, gender, race, religion, age, sexuality, and marital status’, but also parental status, caring responsibilities and hours of work’. Councils ‘will ensure that discriminatory practices are identified and removed and non-discriminatory practices introduced in all areas of employment’[171]. Scotland developed its own JES, with different factors and weightings to the UK NJC scheme. This produced different results than the NJCJES for some groups of women manual workers. The Scottish JES has subsequently been revised twice, most recently in 2015.

The Westminster and Scottish governments provided no extra funding for Single Status, unlike the parallel Agenda for Change scheme in the NHS[172]. Pay and terms and conditions in health are determined by Agenda for Change (health workers) with specific provision negotiated at the level of NHS employers. In contrast, in local government the trade unions wanted core national grades and UK/national level implementation, but neither the Scottish Joint Council (SJC) or Scottish employers would agree. Consequently, individual councils implemented their own job evaluation and pay and grading schemes, utilising core SJC pay scales. The trade unions produced large amounts of guidance on job evaluation and the application of equal pay law to Single Status negotiations. While local pay and grading systems are undoubtedly now broadly compliant with equal value principles and there is a sustainable mechanism for grading jobs into the future across the UK, lack of funding and deadlines, a residual bonus problem, the intervention of ‘no win, no fee’ lawyers, employer and trade union reluctance and austerity have all played a part in leaving UK national governments with hefty bills for litigation and equal pay settlements. In the case of NJC employers this has amounted to well in excess of £2 billion, while in Scotland the bill for litigation is £750,000 – with many cases outstanding[173]. The Scottish Audit Commission reported that by the end of 2018/19 councils had spent £1.314 billion settling equal pay claims[174].

Agenda for Change Scotland

Agenda for Change (AfC) was agreed in Scotland in 2004 and covers around 154,000 NHS employees, excluding doctors, dentists and some senior managerial staff. It should also apply to contracted-out workers via the Scottish Two-Tier Agreement[175]. These are likely to include a high proportion of cleaning, catering, laundry and other blue-collar workers. AfC comprises an ‘equal value’ proofed job evaluation system capable of evaluating ‘new’ and future jobs, a Knowledge and Skills Framework (KSF) linked to progression and harmonised conditions for manual, professional and technical, health care and administrative staff[176].

The AfC pay system consists of nine pay bands, the lowest Band 1 exceeding the rLW. A three-year settlement from 2018/19–2020/21 increased the starting pay in each band, increased progression to the top of each band and increased pay for those at the top of the bands. The agreement also included four areas for reform – policy on the management of sickness absence, organisational change and protection of earnings, utilisations and application of TOIL (Time off in Lieu) and appraisal and incremental progression. Partnership working within NHS Scotland is strong, as reflected in the review by Bacon and Samuel[177] and provides a platform to ensure that equal pay for work of equal value is delivered for catering, cleaning and care workers within NHS Scotland. It is also proposed that a separate collective agreement for the National Care Service could be based on Agenda for Change pay and conditions.

Adult Health and Social Care

The health and social care sector encompasses older people’s care and care for people with disabilities. One in ten workers in Scotland are employed in the health and social work sector – 398,000 people, of whom 70% are women. Nearly half (49%) of the sector has low and medium skills; over a third (35%) of the sector is aged 50 plus and only approaching one in ten (8%) of the sector is aged between 17 and 24 years because young people do not see care work as a career[178]. In contrast, hospitality has a younger workforce.

In Human Health and Social Work Activities the GPG increased from 15% in 2012 to 17% in 2019[179]. Close the Gap suggests that GPG increases during this period might reflect the impact of the public sector pay freeze, job losses and reductions in the number of posts on women[180]. Table 2 shows the gap for full-time employees, based on average hourly rates, was 12% in 2020, it also shows the different calculations for mean and median hourly rates.

Table 2: Gender Pay Gap, UK, 2020 in Health and Social Care Professions [181]
Gender Pay Gap Median Gender Pay Gap Mean
Full Time 10 11.6
Part Time -7.2 0.4

Table 3 demonstrates that over one in ten (12%) of the Human Health and Social Work Activities workforce was paid less than the rLW in 2012. This had increased to 17% in 2016 but fell to 11% in 2019, showing that there had been little improvement in seven years[182].

Table 3: Percentage of Human Health and Social Work Workforce Paid Less Than the rLW, 2012–19 [183]
2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019
% workforce earning less than real Living Wage 11.8 13.9 14.5 15.7 16.8 12.9 13.7 11.3

The Fair Work in Scotland’s Social Care sector report (2019) found that there were 202,090 Full Time Equivalent (FTE) workers employed in social care, 83% women. Over one in ten (13%) of the workforce work over 50 hours a week and one in five (20%) are not on permanent contracts, with 11% on zero-hours contracts[184].

The key issue is recognition of the value of women’s care work, to support the case for better pay and conditions. In Australia, Denmark, Germany and Italy care workers are only slightly less well paid than construction workers but, in the US and UK, care workers are paid almost half of what construction workers are paid. In Australia, Denmark, UK and the US earnings of care workers are below the national average and the differences between childcare and care for older people is small. In some countries, pay for childcare workers is often higher than for care workers because the training and qualifications required are higher. Working conditions in the care sector are characterised by low pay, long hours, tiring work and irregular work[185].

Outsourcing Care

Baines and Cunningham’s[186] analysis of outsourcing in the care sector identified that the pay of predominantly female and increasingly minority ethnic frontline workers had failed to keep up with that of workers in the public sector, especially in relation to pensions, sick pay and travel/subsistence allowances. In addition, skills were being undermined with a reduction of autonomy and discretion for frontline workers. The emotional content of care work has been replaced by increased bureaucracy.

A key determinant of pay is the widespread use of zero hours contracts (ZHCs), where women are more likely to be on a ZHC than men[187] – and the related non-payment of travel time, where the time spent travelling between clients’ homes is either not paid or paid in full. Similarly, time spent training or in supervision is not paid. A study of the implementation of UNISON’s Ethical Care Charter, adopted by over 20 local authorities including in Scotland[188] found that the introduction of the Living Wage (LW) or London Living Wage under the Charter had introduced a higher benchmark for pay and changed the wider care labour market by putting pressures on neighbouring local authorities to uplift rates. The LW was centrally funded by three local authorities and in the case of Renfrewshire, partly by the Scottish Government. However, while the case study authorities committed themselves to moving away from ZHCs and unpaid travel time, this has proved to be problematic. While a number of councils had given homecare workers the option of guaranteed hours contracts (GHCs) there is evidence that some care workers have been reluctant to move to GHCs because they have to commit to being available for unscheduled work, including early mornings, evenings and weekends, which those with caring responsibilities cannot or do not want to work, but which under GHCs (unlike ZHCs) they cannot then turn down[189]. GHCs share characteristics of Minimum Hours (MHCs) contracts in sectors such as retail, namely demanding availability beyond contractual hours.

Cunningham and James[190] examined the changing nature of social care outsourcing and the effect on employment conditions in voluntary/not-for-profit organisations in Scotland. The use of more arms-length and cost-based contracting had led to an erosion of employment conditions. The use of Approved List Providers reduced costs by choosing the cheapest bids as part of a procurement process determined by financial priorities rather than local authorities developing relationships with local providers and working together to find ways of meeting local needs. Cunningham and James found that voluntary organisations/not-for-profit providers had less and less scope for protecting pay and working conditions, including reducing access to sick pay, pensions and other benefits.

Baines et al.[191] also explored the position of personal care workers in the not-for-profit sector. The cash-for-care model of personal funding, which means that workers are only paid from the individual service-user’s package for the time spent with the service user, has had a damaging effect on pay and terms and conditions for care workers. There is no sick pay and consequently workers work when ill. They also provide additional hours without pay when a care package does not cover the cost of care and the not-for-profit provider cuts the worker’s hours, thus using their discretion to provide better care for clients. Bureaucratic tasks were not recognised as paid work and so care workers again put additional unpaid work in. Workers were motivated by an ethic of care and solidarity with service users. These findings were reflected in the ‘Fair Work in Scotland Social Care sector report’, which concluded that fair work was not being delivered in the care sector. The wider systems of funding and commissioning make it difficult to offer fair work:

‘Social care providers should be commissioned based on their level of skill, expertise, understanding and application of the Fair Work Framework, and on costs based on the right numbers of staffing required and a satisfactory and fair income level for each member of staff’[192].

The Scottish Living Wage in Adult Social Care

From October 2016 the Scottish Government and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) jointly agreed that frontline care staff working in publicly funded adult social care should be paid at a minimum the rLW, in part to resolve recruitment and retention. Local health and social care partnerships would transfer funding via local authorities to care providers. Research by the University of Strathclyde[193] reported that there was consensus among voluntary and private sector providers, employers, COSLA, trade union representatives and civil servants that the introduction of the rLW for adult social care workers represented ‘a significant progressive effort by the Scottish Government to improve the working conditions and living standards of front-line staff in the sector’. However, the evaluation found that providers, lead bodies of employers and contracting authorities agreed that the level of transparency and consultation regarding the introduction of the rLW was limited. The distribution of funding to resource the rLW in adult social care was viewed as being overly complex, and again there was limited transparency in terms of how decisions regarding final sums were arrived at. There was variation in approaches to implementing the rLW ranging from percentage uplifts for all providers to undertaking detailed individual negotiations. There was limited evidence that providers were cutting other terms and conditions of employment to fund increases in the rLW, although it was reported that differentials were being squeezed. A number of authorities were apparently making the rLW a de facto requirement of tendering.

Addressing the Gender Pay Gap – Public Policy and Government

Two international studies of changes in the position of nursing and care workers in the light of increased funding of health and other public services and the abandonment of neo-liberal policies show that although government and the public sector play an important role, unified trade unions, access to training and resulting professionalisation have roles to play in ensuring equal pay[194].

For example, in Argentina, the National Law on Nursing Activities[195] provided guidelines for public and private sectors. It set out reduced working hours, stress-related leave entitlements and early retirement for ‘critical’ areas, e.g., neuro-psychiatric institutions and intensive care. However, leave for emotional reasons or for training was not included and this had implications for the take-up of training. Overall, government contributed to challenging traditional views of care and the role of professionalisation and education in addressing gender stereotypes. Esquivel and Pereyra[196] conclude that progressive care policies have to be accompanied by policies that challenge gender stereotypes and allow workers to take part in collective bargaining arrangements.

Macro-Economic Strategies – Investing in the Care Economy

In 2021 the Scottish Women’s Budget Group set out a number of steps to a ‘caring economy’ to address the climate emergency and recovery from Covid-19. It advocates tackling gender segregation and investing in care and envisages a caring economy as ‘gender equal’ providing time for both men and women to care[197]. Previously, in 2016, the International Trade Union Confederation commissioned a report from the UK Women’s Budget Group, which presented a case for investment in the care sector, informed by a series of case studies of high-income countries. The case for infrastructure investment has been used in relation to physical infrastructure, but the arguments for social infrastructure are less often used. However, the crisis in care resulted in research projections that try and quantify what social investment might translate into, in terms of jobs. Investment in social infrastructure includes the labour force and its skills as well as the buildings and facilities necessary to deliver care services. The effect of investing in care services will create jobs that will have multiplier effects on other sectors[198].

The UK Women’s Budget Group investigated whether investment of 2% of GDP would have the greatest impact on jobs and the GPG in the construction or care sectors. It found that investment in the construction sector would lead to an increase in employment of men by 0.9 to 2.4% and for women 0.1% to 0.4%. In contrast, the same investment in the care sector would result in an increase in employment of 2.4% to 5.5% for women and for men of 0.4 to 1.3%, which would reduce the country’s gender gap in employment by two points. However, with the size of investment in the care sector, it was expected that more men would enter the sector, which would reduce occupation segregation by gender and the GPG[199].

This report has been widely disseminated. The concept has been taken up by the OECD at international level and is being promoted at national level in Australia. Dawson[200] recently published a case for a care-led recovery from Covid-19, based on work done by the Women’s Budget Group.

Elementary Occupations

One in ten of those employed in Scotland work in so-called elementary occupations, which includes cleaners, hospital porters and labourers[201]. Table 5 shows the average GPG was 10% for full-time and 4% for part-time workers. There has been a steady decrease in the employment rate of those working in elementary occupations, from 12% in 2004, although there is regional variation to 9.8% in December 2020[202]. In Scotland, a quarter (25%) of all EU nationals in employment worked in elementary occupations, higher than the 14% of non-EU nationals and 10% of UK nationals.

Table 4: Gender Pay Gap, UK, 2020 in Elementary Occupations [203]
Gender Pay Gap Median Gender Pay Gap Mean
Full Time 8.1 10.1
Part Time -3.2 3.9


Gender segregation is particularly apparent in cleaning. UNISON Scotland reports cleaners working on contracts for the public sector are over 80% female and the majority are 45-54 years old[204]. In the UK generally there is evidence that ME and migrant workers are over-represented in cleaning[205]. Similarly, the EHRC[206] reported that across the UK, the cleaning sector has a higher-than-average number of older workers, with the same pattern seen in Scotland specifically[207].

The FLEX[208] report found that almost half of their survey respondents were bullied because of their age, nationality, race or sex. However, those cleaners who were undocumented were less likely to report such abuses[209]. Wider research shows similar patterns of discriminatory treatment towards migrant, pregnant, older and disabled workers in the cleaning sector[210].

The average cleaner’s salary in Scotland is 11% less than the UK average and 30% less than the average salary for Scotland[211]. UNISON Scotland’s[212] 2014 survey of cleaners working in areas where it organises found that they mostly work part time, averaged 23 hours per week and nearly a quarter had other jobs[213]. Wider UK-based studies reported pay rates between £5 and £7.50 in the private sector in 2014 and £6.31 and £9 in the public sector, with a downward trend[214]. While some cleaners operate on an hourly rate, many in the hospitality sector were on piece rates, or an hourly rate that depended on cleaning an unrealistic set number of rooms per hour, which resulted in wages below what was then the National Minimum Wage[215].

The FLEX report on UK-wide cleaning reported widespread low pay with 6% of cleaners paid below the National Living Wage and varying issues with pay including under-payment, non-payment, late payment and deductions[216]. Nearly half did not qualify for Statutory Sick Pay because of the Lower Earnings Limit (particularly when working for multiple employers), found existing sick pay entitlements inadequate and feared losing work for calling in sick or were denied SSP. A proportion were denied holiday pay. The report highlighted dangerous working conditions, risk to physical and mental health in the workplace as well as work-related violence and sexual harassment. The EHRC[217] reported occupational segregation within cleaning, where some jobs were designated ‘men’s work’, noting that this perception of men and women’s work can result in unequal pay. Women in its study felt their work was undervalued compared to traditionally male work such as portering[218]. The FLEX[219] report demonstrates that employment status is important, with those classed as ‘workers’ or ‘self-employed’ having fewer rights and protections, with employers able to cut hours for those on casual contracts. Discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity and nationality is endemic and low levels of unionisation and language barriers mean cleaners may not be in a position to enforce any rights that they might have.

Wages in so-called ‘elementary occupations’ are rarely the result of collective bargaining, but public sector unions may bring pressure to bear on employers. Cleaners working for companies contracted to National Rail in the major stations in Scotland have been backed by transport union, RMT, in a campaign for the rLW[220]. Cleaners on public sector contracts represented by UNISON[221] reported fewer incidents of zero-hour contracts than those contracted by the private sector. Cleaning firms’ ability to pay the rLW is dependent on contractual terms under outsourcing[222]. Unrealistic cleaning contracts mean downward pressure on wages and conditions, with cleaning wages largely determined by contract value[223]. The EHRC[224] found that high levels of competition drives pay downwards at early stages in the tendering process and when contracts are due for renewal. Procurement is thus crucial and Scottish legislation allowing public bodies to specify the rLW potentially important. Previous research found that paying cleaners the ‘real Living Wage’ has been seen to have clear benefits. Cleaning firms adopting the Living Wage reported lower levels of absenteeism and staff turnover, clients reported improved service and cleaners were positive about the increased wages[225]. However, absence of effective enforcement of labour rights and labour inspections in cleaning have also been highlighted[226].


Work in so-called elementary occupations is historically deemed as ‘low skilled’ and approaching half (45%) of workers in Scotland are employed in work that is low or medium skilled[227]. However, in food and accommodation the rate is approaching two-thirds (63%)[228]. Overall, 7% of the workforce work in the accommodation and food service sector[229] and this sector has seen a growth of 14,000 men and 8,000 women since 2009[230]. These services contribute £6 billion to Scottish GDP and form the main component of the tourism sector[231].

Over half (55%) of those working in the sector are women[232]. However, pay and conditions reflect not only gender, but age and migrant status. The average age of workers in kitchen and catering jobs in the UK in 2011 was 25[233]. As Figure 3 shows, the sector is also dominated by migrant workers, EU and non-EU nationals. In the accommodation and food services (hotels and restaurants) sector almost 22% of the workforce were born outside the UK (and at least half from the EU).

Figure 3: Proportion Employed by Industry and Nationality (Aged 16 and Over), Scotland, 2018 [234]
Chart showing proportions of UK, EU and non-EU workers in different industries. Hospitality and service industry is predominantly non-UK workers.

Catering assistants’ average salary in Scotland is 22% less than the average salary across Scotland but is 36.4% above the national salary for catering assistants.

Catering workers are also employed on public sector contracts, where again bargaining over pay and conditions is removed from the remit of collective bargaining. In a 2017 UNISON[235] survey of school catering workers across the UK, 41% reported that they were concerned with pay; unpaid overtime was commonplace as were second jobs to keep staff afloat. There are cases where unions negotiate on behalf of catering staff: Unite has negotiated pay, meal allowances and long service awards with the catering company that supplies Eurostar[236]. The union has represented catering staff transferred from direct employment with London Zoo to Charlton House Catering and took action at a failure to consult on detrimental changes to employment conditions[237].

In Canada, the Hospital Employees Union (HEU) started to organise low-paid women workers in outsourced service such as housekeeping, laundry and food services in the private health care sector in Vancouver, many of whom were migrant women and women of colour. The HEU overcame organisational problems sponsoring the first Living Wage Campaign in Vancouver and developed links with civil society groups, e.g. First Call British Columbia (an anti-poverty coalition) and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives[238]. Not all the strategies were successful. There were internal tensions within the HEA between higher paid public sector members and lower paid private sector members. Some of the tensions were resolved by getting higher paid public sector workers to reconsider the links between race and class in segmented labour markets.

Early Learning and Childcare

Early learning and childcare (ELC) workers provide care and education for children from birth to the age of five. These ELC workers can be self-employed in the home, e.g. child minders, or work in a formal setting in a nursery or school either in the public or private sector. The labour force for ELC is highly gender segregated. In Scotland only 4% of the ELC workforce are male[239]. The Scottish Government, however, is committed to improving the gender diversity of its ELC workforce and worked recently with the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) to deliver an Early Years Challenge Fund to pilot approaches to increase the number of men enrolling onto ELC qualifications[240].

The Care Inspectorate[241] report that are 250,560 registered children in ELC in Scotland. There are 3,588 ELC services, with 4,330 childminding services, 18 childcare agencies and a total of 42,180 staff working in ELC[242]. In 2017 over 90% of nurseries were run by the public or private sector with the public sector being slightly larger and covered a wider number of services.[243]

There has been significant expansion of ELC provision across Scotland with an increase in funded places rising to 1,140 hours from the age of three, and those two year olds who will benefit most, from August 2021. This expansion of funded childcare was originally set for August 2020 but was delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. A multi-year capital and revenue funding agreement has been made with COSLA to fund this expansion in entitlement[244]. In particular, this agreement includes sufficient funds to cover the payment of the rLW to all childcare workers who are providing childcare for funded hours[245]. The National Standard for Early Learning and Childcare Providers states that partner providers must have ‘a fair and equal pay policy across their setting, including a commitment to supporting the real Living Wage’. This increase in funded hours has had an unintended impact on those not in the local authority sector. For example, the Social Mobility Commission[246] reports that local authority settings offer free care to children who are not yet three years old and, therefore, eligible for funded places, but will reach age three before the end of the first term they are in childcare. In England, this practice disadvantages childminders, in particular, who are unable to offer a free place until the child reaches three years old[247].

The Scottish Social Services Council[248] reports that the majority of ELC workers employed in the private and voluntary sector earn less than the rLW and they recognise the need to apply the rLW provision for adult care workers to ELC workers. However, from August 2021 the SG has committed to paying the rLW to all workers who deliver the funded ELC entitlement. Pay in ELC is determined by a mixture of sectoral collective bargaining under single status, organisational collective bargaining and unilateral pay setting by private sector organisations and through self-employment. Pay also varies between the ELC setting, e.g. it depends whether the setting is local authority, private or in the voluntary sector[249]. However, in England, these settings also use more agency staff, who are paid higher, although without benefits. Agency staff do not want to take on permanent roles, which can have a destabilising effect on the sector[250] – a level three qualified worker under 25 could earn less than an unqualified worker over the age of 25 despite doing the same job[251]. In Scotland, an ELC worker can expect to be paid between £15-28k per year depending on experience[252]. Research shows the majority of costs borne by ELC providers come from staff salary – 71%[253]. Pension contributions are more common in the private sector (44%) compared to the not-for-profit sector (23%)[254].

Other research has found that in some instances low pay is accepted and the desire to work with children outweighs the low pay received[255]. The National Day Nurseries Report on the Scottish workforce found that the vast majority of respondents to their survey reported issues with recruiting staff with at least 71% of providers facing recruitment challenges and that even when staff are in post 62% faced ‘significant challenges’ in retaining staff[256]. The survey found in the previous 12 months turnover rates were at 29% of the entire childcare staff employed by respondents, higher than the UK economy as a whole, where the rate was 15-18%. Level three[257] qualified staff are the most in demand but the hardest to recruit and the most likely to leave the sector[258]. The main reason for leaving was to move to a school-based or local authority early years setting and/or to seek higher salaries outside the ELC sector, followed by better salaries within other private or voluntary sector settings. The phasing-in of 1,140 hours was seen as a driving factor in the movement of staff from private and voluntary providers to local authority settings and providers expressed concern about the recruitment of extra staff to fulfil the commitment.

Stewart et al.’s earlier report for UNISON Scotland[259] proposed that retention rates in Scotland varied by sector, but there was 83% retention overall; 90% retention in the local authority settings; and 78% in the private sector. The higher retention levels in the public sector were due to higher rates of pay and more opportunities for staff development[260]. Some workforce churn can be attributed to the gendered nature of the workforce, where many women take a leave the job when they have children[261]. Further, a proportion of women in England do not return to childcare and ELC work as the cost of childcare outweighs the salary they would earn[262]. The Social Mobility Commission[263] reports the low supply of workers is also a result of gender segregation where childcare is considered ‘women’s work’ and low status. Age is also an important consideration. The ELC workforce, in Scotland, is dominated by those in the early or mid-stages of their career[264]. The average age of staff in the private sector is 28 years old and 43 years old in the public sector[265]. The National Day Nurseries Report on the Scottish workforce found that over one-third (35%) of staff were under the age of 25[266]. The prevalence of a younger workforce has implications, firstly on retention and secondly on the professionalisation of the sector. Totenhagen et al.[267] found that older childcare workers are more likely to be committed and have higher retention rates. The dominance of a younger workforce could, therefore, raise concerns about persistent unfilled vacancies. The age profile of the workforce also affects qualification, with those aged 54 and above less likely to have a degree-level qualification[268]. This suggests there is a steady professionalisation of the industry over time, meeting the Scottish Government’s aim to improve the professionalisation of the sector.

The Scottish Social Services Council[269] recognised the need for ELC providers to be qualified. The Scottish Social Services Council[270] has focused on registration and mandates that workers achieve registration within six months of starting employment and in 2013/14 approximately 89% of workers in the sector held an appropriate qualification. Stewart et al.[271] call for the increased professionalisation and complex work of Scottish ELC workers to be recognised by Government and the sector. Siraj and Kingston[272], in their review of the early years workforce in Scotland, went further to recommend a national pay scale for ELC workers to be adopted by all local authorities and highly recommended this also be applied to private and third sector who are engaged in care for local authority funded children. They called for the pay disparities between the local authority, private and voluntary sectors to be addressed and advocate raising the pay in all ELC settings to ensure that the status of teaching younger children is comparable with that of teaching older children.

Bonetti[273] highlights the importance of an ELC workforce that is ethnically, culturally and linguistically diverse, yet in England it is mainly white with only a small minority of ME workers and even fewer workers reporting a disability[274]. Scotland has a similar picture, with the average age being 34 years old, only 2% report a disability and 1% of the workforce is ME[275]. To address the lack of diversity in the ELC workforce, the Scottish Government has run national recruitment campaigns to support the 1,140 hours expansion, and increase the proportion of men, ME and disabled people in the ELC workforce[276]. Bonetti[277] reports low numbers of disabled people in the ELC workforce, but also that disability affects propensity to work part time, with 3% of part-time workers reporting they do so because of disability.

Sales and Customer Service (retail)

In the UK there has been an increase in the proportion of men in the retail workforce – to 46% in 2018 and there are indications that this has led to an increase in full-time employment[278]. Prior to Covid-19 the sector was identified as having the highest outflow rate to unemployment with 31 % of retail leavers exiting to unemployment, and these workers were disproportionately young. Post-Covid there is evidence of substantially increased redundancies in the context of the shift to online shopping. Pay in retail is determined by three mechanisms: collective bargaining in larger retailers; the National Living Wage; and, potentially, the current equal pay cases being brought in national supermarkets. Table 6 shows that the average GPG for both full-time and part-time employees was 5% in a sector dominated by women.

Table 5: Gender Pay Gap, UK, 2020 in Sales and Customer Services (%) [279]
Gender Pay Gap Median Gender Pay Gap Mean
Full Time 1.4 4.7
Part Time 0.3 4.7

Across the UK the retail trade union, USDAW, has UK collective bargaining agreements with the Co-op, Morrisons, Tesco and Sainsburys and also negotiates pay with Argos, Next Distribution and Poundland and, in Northern Ireland, Primark. The National Living Wage is a key factor in retail pay, although USDAW reports that the majority of its members have a basic rate above the National Living Wage. In 2018, an USDAW membership survey found that when the National Living Wage was at £7.83, 55% of respondents earned between £7.83 and £8.50 per hour, with 42% earning above this rate and 3% below. USDAW supports an increase in the National Living Wage to £10 per hour and an end to youth rates. The four major supermarkets with which USDAW negotiates pay a basic rate that is higher than the National Living Wage, with a major breakthrough in January 2021 when the union achieved £10 an hour at Morrisons as part of its New Deal for Workers campaign taking staff beyond the real Living Wage[280]. Morrisons is the first UK supermarket to pay £10 an hour. The union cites only one major retailer, IKEA, that is real Living Wage Accredited.

It has been recognised that progression opportunities in retail are limited and that the differential rates between shopfloor workers and supervisors have been eroded. In Argos in 2017 USDAW negotiated a 6.8% increase for supervisors to recognise this. Tesco has implemented a skills payment to reflect the requirements of particular job roles, worth up to an additional £2.74 per hour. However, the company has also cut managerial roles. The narrow differentials in many parts of the retail sector mean that career progression is not attractive[281]. In the UK nearly one in five retail employees reports that they are over-qualified and over-skilled for their current role[282].

Work in retail is associated with non-standard rather than permanent open-ended working contracts with the National Living Wage seen to have shifted the structure of employment towards part-time roles or guaranteed/minimum hours contracts as low as four hours a week that can then be flexed up. A Joseph Rowntree report recognised a preference amongst retailers for the flexibility of MHC contracts[283]. Associated with this move away from a standard working day is reductions in premia for Sunday and night-time working.[284] There are anecdotal reports that under Covid-19 the same approach has been taken to furlough pay. USDAW has called for minimum contracts of 16 hours per week, for everyone who wants it. As in other sectors retail workers are also affected by changes to in-work benefits that top-up low pay.

In 2018 analysis of GPG reporting data in the 50 largest UK retail companies by PWC showed that the mean pay gap was 13%. Women are disproportionately represented in lower skilled and lower-paid areas of the industry and underrepresented in technical areas[285]. In a female-dominated sector there is a lack of progression of women to management occupations. Retailers have reported introducing mentoring schemes, internally, to address this issue[286].

The most important issue potentially impacting the GPG in retail is the Equal Pay Case taken by mostly female checkout workers against Asda – the biggest-ever equal pay claim in the private sector in the UK. The Supreme Court has ruled that the pay of 35,000 mostly women store checkout workers can be directly compared with that of mainly-male depot staff in its distribution operation[287]. The case will now go to an Employment Tribunal to prove that the roles performed are of equal value. It is reported that Asda could be facing backdated pay claims totalling £8 billion. Similar claims have been taken by women workers at Tesco, Next, Sainsburys, Morrisons and Co-op. Job comparisons included factors such as knowledge, experience, responsibility for planning, maintaining stocks, looking after finance, health and safety, data handling, the need for concentration, the stress of the job, problem-solving, communication, physical skills, and working conditions. The ruling found that the women’s job descriptions did not accurately depict the demands placed upon shop floor workers. Asda had claimed that checkout workers were not required to have any particular knowledge about products in order to do their jobs – the claim was dismissed by the ET. Importantly, the UK Supreme Court ruling means that companies cannot rely on the fact that workers are in two different locations to avoid the protections afforded by the Equality Act 2010.

Following the move to online shopping, amplified by Covid-19, a number of major retailers have announced retail job losses. The FT reported that retail job losses drove a record fall in UK employment over the summer of 2020 and were set to continue as the Covid-19 pandemic accelerated the shift from store-based sales to online shopping[288]. It quoted official data showing that the number of positions in the retail trade – which has been declining as a share of UK employment for 15 years – fell by 78,000 between June and September, making it the main driver of a record loss of 475,000 jobs. Such jobs may be offset by the recruitment of largely male couriers, parcel sorters and warehouse workers by companies such as Hermes and Yodel, yet a proportion of these are categorised as ‘self-employed’ with limited access to employment rights and paid by delivery. Major food retailers have also recruited additional staff to pick online orders. As yet it is not possible to conclude how far the shift to online shopping represents a changed gender division of labour in retail, displacing a largely female workforce.



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