Women in law still suffering covid fallout
The pandemic is continuing to have a detrimental impact on the finances and mental health of women in the legal profession, a snap poll has found. The survey, conducted by the Next 100 Years project earlier in October, asked more than 400 women lawyers about their experiences six months on from the beginning of the pandemic. Almost a third of them worked for organisations which had made redundancies as a result of the pandemic. The survey revealed that redundancies tended to be among junior legal staff, particularly paralegals, secretarial and business services staff – the majority of whom are female. More than half of those surveyed suspected that some firms were using the pandemic as an excuse for cuts; and 55 per cent believed women were being disproportionately impacted by cuts and redundancies.
The survey also showed nearly a quarter had not seen their incomes return to pre-covid-19 levels, with a fifth working fewer hours than previously. The project’s earlier survey, carried out in May, revealed the significant impact the pandemic was having on women’s finances and their struggle with juggling work and family commitments. Six months on, just 9 per cent of women in the profession felt their job would be at risk in the next six months, with 70 per cent expecting their organisations to be resilient to the economic downturn.
Just over three quarters (76 per cent) said their organisation was handling the pandemic well. However, nearly two thirds reported a negative impact on their mental health as a result of the pandemic; and 55 per cent said their caring responsibilities had increased because of childcare or caring for vulnerable or shielding relatives.
Concerningly, 45 per cent were concerned their employers would be less understanding about childcare issues for under 16s as the pandemic went on. One partner said: “Women have really struggled with childcare and are worried about appraisals, especially when there is talk of rewarding those who ‘stepped up’ during lockdown.” Another partner said: “As an employment lawyer who specialises in sex discrimination work for professional women, I have seen numerous female clients, especially mothers, lose their jobs in the past six months where it’s evident caring responsibilities have been a factor.” Dana Denis-Smith, founder of The Next 100 Years, said the survey showed that women in the legal profession continue to be put under pressure by this crisis. She commented: “Although the situation has improved considerably since our lockdown survey in May, women are still feeling the fallout from that period and remain apprehensive about the ongoing impact increased caring responsibilities will have on their working lives.”