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Covid-19 and women's equality

A nurse with cleaning equipment, a woman in an apron cooking, a women in a lab coat with shopping, a call handler, and a woman ironingWe want to know how Covid-19 is impacting on women's lives in Scotland.

This isn't just a public health issue for women - it comes with an increase in unpaid care, precarity for those in insecure housing, higher risks for those in low-paid and precarious work, damaging societal expectations of motherhood, new ways of carrying out online harassment, and many other ways in which women are being discriminated against.

Your stories of how the pandemic is affecting you - from domestic micro-aggressions to exploitative employers - will be used to inform our policy work and highlight how the virus is having a disproportionate impact on women.

If you are seeking support, please visit our Covid-19 resources page here.

Katy
February 2, 2021

The HMRC have been an absolute nightmare. They sent me a letter out of the blue in September, saying I owed them £2k, and that they would arrest my wages. They didn't give any explanation why, where the amount had come from, and when I tried to phone them I could not get through to the right department. I was on hold for hours and hours. When I finally did, they were sympathetic, but just said I had to pay, and that they didn't know where the amount came from either! I should also say that I wasn't too worried because they had my employer as someone that I worked for about 10 years ago. I think it might have been tax credit overpayments that they had got wrong. I;ve never heard anything back from them, but it's really worrying, because I can't afford for them to take that amount of money off me. I have no way of appealing or having the amount explained. I'm managing ok, but if it had been a vulnerable person, I can imagine they would have been in a terrible state.

Unemployed disabled on long term benefits
January 25, 2021

I have had so many problems dealing with the government departments in tax revenue and Department of working pensions. I have been trying for the last four years to set up a small self-employment arrangement as I’m allowed to do permitted work which was two hours a week which is now four.

It is so degrading to be spoken to like I am a 10-year-old by the HM revenue and customs when I’m very clear about what their responsibilities are.

Type don’t find easy is accounting because I have dyscalculia and ADHD with a congenital disability which compounds that and exacerbates my autonomic system by just trying to stabilise my body constantly from the brain it’s not something I have that much control over unless I stop communicating with the person who is causing me the problem

Happened to me was that the tax officer after even nearly an hour would not stop talking and was talking to me as if I was not sensible I said this kind of behaviour that he was using to interrogate me was enough to make somebody not want to continue so he was being over personal and invasive and his approach and I felt very uncomfortable with his line of questioning which had nothing to do with the actual problem that was created by another organisation run by men who ripped me off and I was part of a scam so I’m not paying for that and trying to survive

Today was the day when I became distressed and tired of being ‘bullied’
I don’t want to work anymore I don’t see the point

I’m fed up with dealing with men that speak to me as if I’m insignificant
I don’t want to deal with heterosexual men anymore - it’s too much for me to deal with on my own
I don’t feel that I’m a part of the system because I’m not represented
I’m dealing with men who address me like a “father” - like patriarchs from Victorian Britain in draconian tones

I don’t know what else to say apart from I’ve had enough this is not a country I want to living in its current state

Jobseeking Mother of three
January 20, 2021

I left my highly demanding job as a social worker in March 2020 to start working for an organsiation that I felt would be more supportive and understanding of my situation and allow me to get a better work life balance. I began my job in lockdown and had to juggle learning a new post, homeschooling and houshold tasks. My husband works shifts and had been asked to work 7 twelve hour shifts in a row with a two week break. In his first week off he would be exhausted and I would feel obliged to support him. My mental health was up and down and the uncertainty of the pandemic made me uneasy. I am also dyslexic and had asked for support from my employer in putting in place reasonable adjustments which included computer software etc. I did not get my access to work assessment until July 2020 and the equipment I needed did not arrive until September 2020. I was then not confirmed in post in November 2020 and am currently unemployed seeking work. Everyday I worry about how we will manage to pay the mortgage the following month and how I can help bring money in and we are now back in lockdown and whilst also job hunting Im expected to homeschool and do all the household tasks and attend interviews and apply for jobs. I constantly feel guilty that I am not working and am aware this is impacting my relationships with my husband and children.

Mother of 3
January 17, 2021

Had to give up my job (most likely career) as a midwife as the final straw was no childcare if no school, and if I was working I'd then have to work alternate days to my partner, reducing his ability to work when he earns more money for the household. His business is less than a year old so he didn't qualify for any financial assistance, or furlough at any point, however his customer base has definitely been affected by the pandemic. When the first lockdown was announced and I suddenly had no childcare for work, I couldn't go to work for several weeks and later had annual leave entitlement and money deducted from my pay to cover the unavoidable time off I had had to take. For several months during the spring/summer lockdown I then worked alternate days to my partner and our household income was greatly reduced, with no financial assistance to make up the shortfall. We were also renting and had no support from our landlord and later had to move house.

Alongside all this, my abusive ex partner (and biological father of my children) has taken me to court as the children have refused to visit him. I had made a police report and social work report for serious issues, but due to the pandemic he was not properly interviewed and a serious child related incident and years of historic abuse were lessened to "just a joke" by him over the phone and the cases were closed without further investigation. Solicitor and court matters are all via telephone and a child hearing will be carried out by conference call - leaving me feeling alone, unsupported and without all information being able to be given - body language etc. I feel my ex can hide behind the telephone and I'm worried, because this matter is so incredibly important and will have a huge impact on mine and my children's futures.

Myself and my children are now left completely reliant on my new partner for money. Since giving up my NHS job, I have applied for universal credit however it has been several weeks and I have yet to hear anything.

wanting out
December 4, 2020

i have been an escort for 3 years. i already wanted out before covid hit. i knew it was going to be bad for the industry from February when bookings started to drop. i dont know how bad and for just how long this was going to be. i had some savings which helped at the start but i had been putting money away for a while to i could leave escorting. that nest egg gone.
it has been the worst time of my life. i have felt so lonely and had no option to go back to escorting during this. Our agency was no use - they have made alot of oney off me for years and when it came to it - nothing back when we needed it most. i couldnt tell anyone that i was back with customers - completely against all rules but i had no choice. i thought my regulars would help me out but no - no loyalty there. that hurt me - some of these guys i had seen every week for months but they dropped me. i asked a couple of them if they could pay forward some meet ups to help. flat out no. They have moved on now too to some of the new girls on the scene - there;s plenty to pick from. i live on my own so had no-one to help me with bills. i still dont. i found out about a couple of funds going though some support servcies and that really helped me. Its been the only real practical help i have had - they managed to get some more money to help me with my rent and i am getting some counselling through them too. i never thought it would come to this. i cant do it anymore and i know i need out. Covid has pushed me to move on but there is nothing to go to so i have to stay doing this.

Mum of 2
November 1, 2020

I tested positive and so did my husband. A friend also tested positive and her husband. Both families have kids, but we didn't get them tested - but isolated them all and noted them as close contacts.

We live in Glasgow. The Glasgow covid support team called the husbands. Neither of us women got a call. In our family I tested positive first, my husband second. Vice versa in my friend's family.

Why only one call per household and why is it to the man?

'lazy artist'
October 8, 2020

I work in the creative industries. Of course, that means I have several other jobs on the go at the same time (show me anyone working in the arts who doesn't!). My zero hours bar work has just disappeared due to the new central belt restrictions - but the guys have been kept on. My options for work are limited due to childcare - first home schooling, now knowing that at any moment there could be a breakout in the school and they'll be sent home to self-isolate.

Due to the nature of my work, I wasn't eligible for furlough, or the self-employed support scheme, and I'm still waiting on Universal Credit.

My living expenses have gone up - no heated shared studio to work in, constant demand for snacks (from me and the kid!) - and I'm facing the prospect of Christmas coming with me broke, no chance of work, and family far away.

Pregnant and Facing Redundancy
September 25, 2020

I found out I'm pregnant at the beginning of lockdown. It's been a lonely time: the maternity services were closed in my area and I haven't been able to see family and friends as I live too far away. On Monday I'll have my first face-to-face midwife appointment (I'm 6 months along now) and I'll be so relieved to see how the baby is doing and ask all my questions.

I work at a health charity and things have been tough during the pandemic. My colleagues were selected for furlough so my workload was doubled, and my hours reduced to save money for the charity. As a result I've not been able to save as much for the baby as I hoped. Now my team is being made redundant. Sadly we're all female home-based workers, many with families and pre-existing health conditions, having chosen these jobs for the flexibility they offered. Staff in the London head office are largely unaffected by the cuts the charity is making and it does feel that women/home-based workers are being disproportionately affected.

Luckily I'll make it to my qualifying date for SMP, but I feel concerned about whether I'll be able to find a job for the short period before the baby comes and how I'll make ends meet after the drop in income I've experienced.

Worker and mother
September 24, 2020

Switched from office working to working from home with 9 year old at home.
Manager furloughed the full-time Office Manager even though they too could have worked from home (a cashflow decision I felt). Their work, instead, was split amongst the boss, her husband (who has his own full-time job) and me who was asked to do overtime (in spite of having to home-school in addition to working and shop for my mother who was in the shielding category.
When things got too much for my boss, they took time off, leaving me to cover the phone, alone, from my home with my daughter in the next room, able to hear when a disgruntled client had called and seeing the effect that would have on me.
Because I didn't have any kind of safe office setup at home, I developed sciatica which I am still suffering with now even after purchasing the correct office equipment, at my own expense. I didn't earn enough to utilise any tax rebates for working from home.
It was acs small accounting office so we had to deal with a huge influx of requests for help with the furlough scheme, loans and SEISS claims and some clients were understandably in distress at times, and some took that out on us.
My boss was in the shielding group and was very afraid of contracting Covid and dying and it impacted on her mood and I felt the effects of that as well as the break down in another work relationship she was having that I felt drawn into unnecessarily.
I left my job a few weeks ago when I couldn't take it anymore.
My boss accepted my resignation with no question and offered me a zero hours contract instead. I declined.
I am very lucky that my husband's salary is enough for us to live on now that we are resigned to never holidaying again and foregoing our plans to move home next year.

Self-employed with no financial support
September 23, 2020

I'm self-employed and freelance for various firms but because I do everything through a limited company – something I had to set up because some of my clients won't work with sole traders – I don't qualify for any self-employment support.

Most of my work has dried up, what little work I had during lockdown was exceptionally difficult to do with two children at home, and I've seen my savings dwindle to zero while other freelancers were able to get help under the self-employment support scheme. I get child benefit and universal credit, but it barely covers my rent let alone energy bills, food and kids' clothes.

Work is finally trickling back in so I should be coming off universal credit soon, but I have no idea how I'm going to pay my next tax bill (which is what my savings were for) or what I'll do financially if we go back into lockdown / if the new restrictions cause another slump in my industry.

eu immigrant sex worker
September 23, 2020

My mental health has been steadily planning since late March. Part of it is my fault - I hilariously fired my therapist in late February because I felt like I had dealt with all the issues I was seeing him for, and then the pandemic happened.
I came to Scotland a few years ago in part because it was a very convenient way to cut down time spent with my abusive family of origin, who are still in my home country, and also in part because my home country simply does not hire young women. Here I can support myself through my sex work, well enough to not have to rely on my parents for funds. Of course the pandemic wrecked my financial stability and my ability to work, and the government plan didn't plan any relief for people like me (not registered as self employed, no access to public funds). The two hardship funds (to which the government did not contribute) helped, those few hundred pounds were lifesaving in keeping a roof over my head, but not enough to make me comfortable, and I had to go back to work in May.
I've managed to not need to ask for money from my family. But all my friends, and my partner, here are more financially secure with me - they either still live with family, or family or state funds are covering their living expenses. I'm not upset at them for simply not having to worry about homelessness and starvation (we're in our 20s, I'm the weird one for not relying on my family), but I do wish they were more mindful of my situation when suggesting activities to do to pass the time - I wish my need for company and contact didn't need to come second to my need to pay my bills, but that's what it is.
And now the Scottish government is planning to criminalize sex work, which will be the cherry on top of this terrible cake.

I am alone in a foreign country and my survival depends on whether or not enough middle aged men are reckless enough to bend (not break) covid restrictions to come and pay me. These same men are highly unlikely to have been particularly strict with their restrictions, so I've had to make my peace with the knowledge that I will catch covid, and I'm not the most fit of people, so I fully expect long term consequences from it. At least I won't pass it on to anyone.

Mother of 1
June 18, 2020

Hello Mums,

I'm a working women who is working in renowned IT firm. Since my daughter was just 4 months and I'm working till now as she is now 7 year. Over the years I thought things will become better but it acts like a slow poison and is rupturing my relations with my kid and husband. I have faced many challenges raising her. Though my in-laws are there to take care of her, we don't have a healthy relationship.

My daughter's main challenges are:
1. Food and eating problems
2. Watching excessive mobile and TV
3. Not doing homework and doesn't want to study and write home work and during Covid 19 - she has totally lost interest in studies.
4 .Don't listen to parents or grand parents.

I'm losing love and respect from my husband's side and from in-laws side due to work schedules and styles.Yes definitely I'm helping my family through my earnings but I'm losing happiness, love, care, attention and rupturing relationship with my kid.

What is the use of working then? My parents who are very hard work and belongs to middle class family don't let me lose job.

Can anyone suggest me what is the right thing to do at this point.

Shall I leave my job during covid 19 period? As many who want jobs are not having them. And I have job but I'm not happy .

Thanks

Furloughed worker, living in Glasgow
May 26, 2020

I work full-time and our boss closed the office before lockdown began, so I was working from home for a month or so before being furloughed. Furloughing though really good (my employer makes up the 20% so I get my normal salary) made me feel expendable especially as all the managers were kept on. I think I'm being unfurloughed soon which is good, but I'll still need to work from home. I'm really missing my family, parents, brothers and really missing nieces and nephews. I also really miss my friends and getting out in the countryside away from the city. I live with my husband and am finding I am doing more housework, he is doing some but not a lot, however furlough has meant that I am doing lots of tidying as I usually don't get the time for that. One way that the virus has really impacted me is the short term distribution of medication - I'm on a few medications for life and these are only issued for two months at a time (generally always and not just COVID-19 related - but there were shortages due to COVID and people panicking) I ended up without one of my main ones for about a month at the start of lockdown as I had been given the wrong brand which I react to badly so had to go without.The health symptoms I suffer without correct medication are fatigue, loss of motivation, brain fog and pain (not great). I couldn't get to speak to my GP as all calls are being triaged by the reception staff, who referred me to the pharmacist, who did manage to get me more meds - but this is really precarious. I'm back to being stable on my meds for now, but I think I'm being unfurloughed next week and what if I have another issue with medication and find it hard to work? Working from home is somehow more challenging and tiring than going into an office. Food seems to be more expensive and virtually all of my salary is going on food, however due to not having to buy my lunch and pay for transport, my budgeting is a bit better and I now usually have a wee bit of money at the end of the month.

Mother of 2 (4&7), full time student, part time research assistant, part time student support worker, volunteer Rape crisis worker, volunteer community councillor
April 29, 2020

My partner works in secondary services in the NHS in psychology and so doesn’t have much of a role during lockdown however the NHS also insists that as I am not a key worker I am responsible for the full time care (and schooling) of our children. So many plates to spin that I’m exhausted and a little broken.

Ali
April 23, 2020

I am a Casual Worker and feel cast aside and unwanted since lockdown. What are my rights on loss of work?

Engender response:
Citizens Advice Scotland info on employment rights and accessing benefits: https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/scotland/health/coronavirus-what-it-means-for-you-s/
STUC guide for non-unionized workers: https://www.betterthanzero.scot/blogs/blog/13/redir/
PACE (Partnership Action for Continuing Employment) helpline can be called on 0800 917 8000

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