A business chief called out the U.K. government’s back-to-office campaign saying it could have a lasting impact on female employees.
While the government’s back-to-office campaign aims to save city towns and centers, CMI’s chief executive warned its unavoidable consequences to women and people from ethnic minorities.
Lack of childcare
In her interview with The Guardian, Anne Francke explained that women—particularly mothers—are prone to be left out amid calls for employees to return to office as most female employees in the U.K. does not have sufficient childcare.
She said that without the government considering “blended working,” the return-to-office scheme could result in a two-tier system where women are excluded from making important decisions. And as a result, it opens a path for “white middle-aged males” to dominate the workplace by making key decisions in the office.
“The risk is when we go back into the office, the people that go back will be the senior leaders. And we know that those senior leaders are largely white men,” Francke told The Guardian.
Francke also said that the campaign could prompt a “lack of diverse culture at the top of organizations” and that such a situation “would be a very dangerous step back.”
A recent survey polled by TUC backed the chief executive’s argument concern as well.
Per the data, two in five mothers revealed that they do not have adequate childcare to go back into the office as nurseries and wraparound cares remained unavailable due to the pandemic.
Saving businesses not employees’ responsibility
Yet Francke also added that companies are not responsible for saving businesses—as to how the government promotes the back-to-office campaign—losing profit amid a pandemic.
“I don’t think it is the responsibility of companies to save the local sandwich shop […] The bottom line is, ultimately those businesses that are really affected in the long term will have to adapt,” she said.
There is a need for Britons to feel safe again before returning to the office as well. In a poll conducted by CMI last month, 74% of managers said employees’ most common concern is the possibility of contracting SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
“And they don’t feel safe,” Francke reiterated.
Women progress in the workplace
The CMI’s chief executive also mentioned the possible reversal of decades of female progress in the workplace if the government would not provide a solution.
On contrary, an exclusive survey made for The Guardian showed that more than half of the managers (58%, to be exact) think that the career progress of women would not be affected by a gradual return to work.
Less than half of the participants also believe that lack of childcare would cause negative impacts on female workers.