Despite the good news that there have been improvements in equality at board level in recent years, it seems the glass ceiling remains intact for those ‘on the shop floor’ according to new research released from Deputy, the leading workforce management app.

There has been no levelling of the playing field in the world of shift work, according to the report which reveals that only 34% of female workers believe they have career opportunities compared to 53% of their male colleagues. That’s despite 89% of those women stating that their career is important to them.

The news comes as part of a global State of Shift Work report across the United Kingdom, Australia and the United States, along with analysis of 1.69 million shifts from almost 110k UK workers between March 2020 and February 2021, from businesses using Deputy to manage scheduling, timesheets and payroll.

Key findings from the data also highlight the disparity between the sexes when it came to cutting shifts at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

In April 2020, when the hospitality industry was feeling the effects of the first lockdown, female workers had their hours reduced by 18% compared to just a 7% reduction for men. At the same time in retail, women’s hours reduced by 20% compared to a 9% reduction for men.

David Kelly, General Manager for EMEA at Deputy, said: “A significant proportion of the key workers who have been keeping our country going over the past 12 months are shift workers. The data indicates that the pandemic and its economic fallout are having a regressive effect on gender equality, so it’s really important that we shine a light on inequality and remove inherent bias from shift work rostering.

Last week, the Office for National Statistics reported that while more men died from COVID-19, women’s well-being was more negatively affected than men’s during the first year of the pandemic. And that women were more likely to be furloughed, and to spend significantly less time working from home, and more time on unpaid household work and childcare.

“Given the gender-regressive scenario brought about by the pandemic, we need to take action” added David. “Technology can help organisations to be more inclusive and equitable as an employer. Using data and AI can help managers gain a clear understanding of who is undertaking shifts and when, and ensure fair allocation of work across their workforce.“

According to pre-pandemic ONS data, shift workers make up 33.5% of the workforce in healthcare and social work, 23.2% in postal and courier activities, 27.2% in retail and 42.6% of the workforce in warehousing and support for transport.

By Lisa Baker, Senior Editor

Senior Editor Lisa Baker is the owner of Need to See it Publishing Group, providing contract news for business and news sites across the UK. Lisa is an experienced HR writer and commentator, editing HR publications for more than 5 years.