How High Street job cuts hit the female workforce hardest

Home » News » How High Street job cuts hit the female workforce hardest

The high street has been struggling for a long time and the unexpected hit of Covid-19 has made a bad situation ever worse, resulting in mass high street job cuts. Here, Sophie Bainbridge, a paralegal in the employment team, discusses how this latest blow is disproportionately impacting women.

With the rise in online shopping, the future of the High Street was looking bleak even before the pandemic hit.

Now, after stores were forced to close up for several months and with social distancing measures in place, retail is an increasingly unsecure sector to be in.

Since lockdown, seeing news reports that another big chain is cutting staff has become an all too common occurrence. To date there have been over 41,000 job losses in retail this year.

This figure alone is concerning, but what makes it even more worrying is how these cuts disproportionately affect women.

Staff in the retail sector are predominantly women, and these women usually take on customer facing roles – exactly the jobs that are being scrapped. 

Most recently, Marks & Spencer confirmed that most of its cuts will be made to customer assistants working on the shop floor, regional management, and in its support centre.

According to its 2020 annual report a huge 70 percent of its workforce is female, yet women are under-represented in senior roles and there is a median pay gap of four percent.

Although cuts may be necessary, it is impossible to deny that, once more, women are suffering the most.

This is unsurprising given that ‘women’s work’ has been historically undervalued. Retail bosses fail to recognise the real value staff in these positions add, and this latest round of redundancies is simply a case of history repeating itself.

When you add this to the wider impact that lockdown has had on women, who have borne the brunt of childcare and home schooling and are also most likely to be affected by cuts in the hospitality sector, you can’t help but feel that, yet again, women are getting a raw deal. 

On the one hand, the pandemic has in part highlighted the invaluable work of women working on shopfloors in supermarkets, finally giving them the ‘key workers’ recognition they deserve 

On the other hand, women are enduring the worst of the economic strain. What we need is fairness across the sector, the burden of high street job cuts should not be the burden of female workers only.

For many years, Leigh Day has been helping to give those working in retail a voice. Fighting for retail bosses to recognise and appreciate all of their staff.

Our focus has been on the pay disparity between supermarket store workers, who tend to be female, and distribution centre workers, who tend to be male, but this inequality happens across the industry.

It’s only right that we continue to demand ‘women’s work’ be given the credit it deserves because if we let down women, we’re letting down half of the population. 

For more information about the Equal Pay Claim and how you can join, visit our information page here …

Posted on