50 Years After Equal Pay Act, Women On The Coronavirus Frontline Are Undervalued And Underpaid

Léonie Chao-Fong

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When Tabitha, 50, began to show symptoms of coronavirus in late March, she immediately called the elderly residential care home in North Wales where she works night shifts to say she couldn’t come in.

“They told me that I had to show up,” she said. “They said I was pretending to be sick.”

Tabitha felt like she had no choice – she was on a zero-hours contract, which meant she had no safety net to fall back on. Only days after being sent home for being too sick to work, she was unable to eat or breathe properly.

Although she has been repeatedly denied a test, she told HuffPost UK that she was certain that she caught coronavirus from the care home. “We didn’t have any kind of protection. Then one day nearly everyone fell sick at the same time.”

Tabitha eventually recovered and returned to work. For the month and a half that she was away, she received around £150 of so-called “Covid sick pay” to cover all her bills, and had to rely on food donations to survive.

“I was so angry,” she said. “I tried asking for more but I was told if you ask for too much or insist, you might just be removed.”

The pandemic has hit care homes and care workers hard, with the latest figures stating that there have been 12,526 deaths of care home residents. The real number is likely much higher.

Tabitha told HuffPost UK she didn’t want people to think her “miserable” experience was an isolated case. “I’m sharing my experience on behalf of the silent carer, the one who didn’t have to have the opportunity to share their story with you.”

Meanwhile the government has been criticised for not prioritising care workers, particularly in relation to the provision of testing and PPE. Up to April 20, 131 people working in social care have died of coronavirus – 86 of them women.

Eight out of 10 care workers are women, with many in the sector at barely minimum...

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