During the Covid pandemic, women were found on the frontline both in the home and at work. They shouldered the burden of home schooling and extensive childcare while at work they were overrepresented among the ‘heroes’ of the pandemic, both in caring and in the provision of other vital services, such as food retail. This chapter draws on eight international case studies of women’s employment in two key sectors at the heart of the pandemic frontline - social care and food retail. It explores how government policy, social dialogue and collective bargaining responses acted to support or in some cases failed to support these key frontline women workers in their dual roles in the workplace and at home. The chapter reviews these issues across three dimensions: the insecurities they faced at work and whether any efforts, short or long term, were made to improve protections; whether frontline workers received support with their childcare needs and whether the public’s increased awareness of their contribution to society led to any significant efforts to revalue their labour. The findings are interpreted through a wider lens that identifies the constraints on both revaluing frontline workers and supporting social reproduction burdens in gender-unequal societies. 

  • Acker, Joan. 1990. Hierarchies, jobs, bodies: A theory of gendered organizations. Gender and Society 4(2): 139–158.

  • Andrew, Alison, Sarah Cattan, Monica Costa Dias, Christine Farquharson, Lucy Kraftman, Sonya Krutikova, Angus Phimister, and Almudena Sevilla. 2020. The gendered division of paid and domestic work under lockdown. IZA Discussion Paper No. 13500, doi: 10.2139/ssrn.3654937.

  • Arcidiacono, Davide, Filippo Barbera, Andrew Bowman, John Buchanan, Sandro Busso, Joselle Dagnes, Jess Earle, Ewald Engelen, Peter Folkman, Julie Froud, Colin Haslam, Sukhdev Johal, Ian Jones, Dario Minervini, Mick Moran, Fabio Mostaccio, Gabriella Pauli, Leonhard Plank, Angelo Salento, and Karel Williams. 2017. The Foundational Economy: The Infrastructure of Everyday Life. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

  • Barrientos, Stephanie, and Diane Perrons. 1999. Gender and the global food chain: A comparative study of Chile and the UK. In Women, Globalization and Fragmentation in the Developing World, edited by Haleh Afshar and Stephanie Barrientos, 150–173. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

  • Burchell, Brendan, Vincent Hardy, Jill Rubery, and Mark Smith. 2015. A New Method to Understand Occupational Gender Segregation in European Labour Markets. Luxembourg: European Commission.

  • Cantillon, Sara, Elena Moore, and Nina Teasdale. 2021. COVID-19 and the pivotal role of grandparents: Childcare and income support in the UK and South Africa. Feminist Economics 27(1–2): 188–202.

  • Carré, Françoise and Chris Tilly. 2017. Where Bad Jobs are Better. New York: Russel Sage Foundation.

  • CBC News. 2020. Dominion workers ‘feeling disappointed’ with deal with Loblaw, Unifor says. 14 November 2020. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/newfoundland-labrador/unifor-dominion-strike-over-1.5802421.

  • Charlesworth, Sara, and Lisa Heap. 2020. Redressing gendered undervaluation in New Zealand aged care: Institutions, activism and coalitions. Journal of Industrial Relations 62(4): 608–629.

  • EHRC (Equality and Human Rights Commission). 2022. Experiences from Health and Social Care: The Treatment of Lower-paid Ethnic Minority Workers. https://equalityhumanrights.com/sites/default/files/inquiry-experiences-and-treatment-of-lower-paid-ethnic-minority-workers-in-health-and-social-care-report_0.pdf.

  • Eurofound. 2020a. Living, Working and COVID-19. COVID-19 series. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union. https://www.eurofound.europa.eu/en/publications/2020/living-working-and-covid-19.

  • Eurofound. 2020b. Frame Agreement on Working Time Regulations in Kindergartens in Connection with Coronavirus. Factsheet for measure NO-2020-14/1082 measures in Norway. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union. https://static.eurofound.europa.eu/covid19db/cases/NO-2020-14_1082.html.

  • Eurofound. 2022. Extended Right to Care Benefit for Employed Parents. Factsheet for Measure NO-2020-1/755 – Updated – Measures in Norway. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union. https://static.eurofound.europa.eu/covid19db/cases/NO-2020-1_755.html.

  • Fana, Marta, Songul Tolan, Sergio Torrejón Perez, Maria Cesira Urzi Brancati, and Enrique Fernández Macías. 2020. The COVID Confinement Measures and EU Labour Markets. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union.

  • Feeley, Derek. 2021. Independent Review of Adult Social Care in Scotland. Scottish Government, United Kingdom. February 2021. https://www.gov.scot/binaries/content/documents/govscot/publications/independent-report/2021/02/independent-review-adult-social-care-scotland/documents/independent-review-adult-care-scot

  • land/independent-review-adult-care-scotland/govscot%3Adocument/independent-review-adult-care-scotland.pdf.

  • Grugulis, Irena, and Ödül Bozkurt (eds). 2011. Retail Work. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.

  • Hayes, Lydia J. B. 2017. Stories of Care: A Labour of Law: Gender and Class at Work. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

  • Hebson, Gail, Jill Rubery, and Damian Grimshaw. 2015. Rethinking job satisfaction in care work: Looking beyond the care debates. Work, Employment and Society 29(2): 314–330.

  • Herman, Eva. 2023. Precarious work and precarious lives: a case of the care, arts and hospitality sectors in greater manchester. PhD Thesis, University of Manchester.

  • Herman, Eva, Jill Rubery, and Gail Hebson. 2021. A case of employers never letting a good crisis go to waste? An investigation of how work becomes even more precarious for hourly paid workers under Covid. Industrial Relations Journal 52(5): 442–457.

  • ILO (International Labour Organization). 2018. Care Work and Care Jobs for the Future of Decent Work. Geneva: ILO. http://www.ilo.org/global/publications/books/WCMS_633135/lang--en/index.htm.

  • ILO (International Labour Organization). 2022. Social Dialogue Report 2022: Collective Bargaining for an Inclusive, Sustainable and Resilient Recovery. Geneva: ILO. https://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/---dgreports/---dcomm/---publ/documents/publication/wcms_842807.pdf.

  • Johnson, Mathew, Jill Rubery, and Matthew Egan. 2021. Raising the bar? The impact of the UNISON ethical care campaign in UK domiciliary care. Transfer: European Review of Labour and Research 27(3): 367–382.

  • Jooshandeh, Jake. 2021. Key Workers in the Pandemic: Security Traps among Britain’s Essential Workers. Royal Society of Arts. https://www.thersa.org/globalassets/_foundation/new-site-blocks-and-images/reports/2021/09/keyworkers-in-the-pan

  • demic.pdf.

  • Koslowski, Alison, Sonja Blum, Ivana Dobrotić, Gayle Kaufman, and Peter Moss (eds). 2022. 18th International Review of Leave Policies and Related Research 2022. Research Report. International Network of Leave Policies and Research. https://www.leavenetwork.org/annual-review-reports.

  • Lamadrid, Silvia, Rosario Undurraga, Paulina Pavez, Débora de Fina Gonzalez, Andrea Reyes, and Cecilia Loaiza. 2022. Los cuidados en tensión: medidas estatales para la gestión de los cuidados en Chile en contexto de pandemia. In Pandemia y Crisis. Desafíos para las Ciencias Sociales, edited by Paula Vidal, Jenny Assael, Marisol Facuse, Andrés Gomez, Christian Miranda, Miguel Urrutia and César Castillo, 143–166. Santiago: Social-ediciones.

  • Lambert, Susan J. 2008. Passing the buck: Labor flexibility practices that transfer risk onto hourly workers. Human Relations 61(9): 1203–1227.

  • Lawler, Rachel. 2021. Parents eligible for £500 test and trace support payments if children are self-isolating. Early Years Alliance, 22 March. https://www.eyalliance.org.uk/news/2021/03/parents-eligible-£500-test-and-trace-support-payments-if-

  • children-are-self-isolating.

  • Learner, Sue. 2020. One in four say care home staff have left their families to move in with residents during lockdown, 27 April. https://www.carehome.co.uk/news/article.cfm/id/1624983/one-in-four-care-home-staff-left-families-move-in-lockdown.

  • Leigh Day. 2021. Supermarket workers closer to equal pay after landmark ruling, 3 June. https://www.leighday.co.uk/latest-updates/news/2021-news/supermarket-workers-closer-to-equal-pay-after-landmark-ruling/.

  • Lewis, Jane. 1992. Gender and the development of welfare regimes. Journal of European Social Policy 2(3): 159–173.

  • McBride, Anne, Gail Hebson, and Jane Holgate. 2015. Intersectionality: Are we taking enough notice in the field of work and employment relations? Work, Employment and Society 29(2): 331–341.

  • MacMahon, Juliet. 2019. Plus ça change? regulating zero-hours work in Ireland: An analysis of Provisions of the Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2018. Industrial Law Journal 48(3): 447–467.

  • Murphy, Caroline, and Michelle O’Sullivan. 2021. Running to stand still? Two decades of trade union activity in the Irish long-term care sector. Transfer: European Review of Labour and Research 27(3): 383–397.

  • New Zealand, Ministry of Education. 2021. Childcare available for workers in Alert Level 4. https://www.education.govt.nz/news/childcare-available-again-for-workers-in-alert-level-4-businesses-and-services/.

  • New Zealand, The Treasury. 2020. Essential workers leave scheme, 2 April. https://www.treasury.govt.nz/news-and-events/news/essential-workers-leave-scheme.

  • OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development). 2020. Who Cares? Attracting and Retaining Care Workers for the Elderly. OECD Health Policy Studies. Paris: OECD Publishing. https://www.oecd.org/publications/who-cares-attracting-and-retaining-elderly-care-workers-92c0ef68-en.htm.

  • OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development). 2021. OECD Employment Outlook 2021: Navigating the COVID-19 Crisis and Recovery. Paris: OECD Publishing.

  • O’Brady, Sean. 2019. Rethinking precariousness and its evolution: A four-country study of work in food retail. European Journal of Industrial Relations 25(4): 327–344.

  • ONS (Office of National Statistics). 2021. Quarterly Labour Force Survey, October–December, 2020 [data collection], 6th edn. UK Data Service. https://beta.ukdata

  • service.ac.uk/datacatalogue/studies/study?id=8777.

  • O’Sullivan, Michelle, Juliet MacMahon, Lorraine Ryan, Jonathan Lavelle, Caroline Murphy, Mike O’Brien, and Patrick Gunnigle. 2015. A Study of the Prevalence of Zero Hours Contracts Among Irish Employers and its Impact on Employees. https://enterprise.gov.ie/en/publications/publication-files/study-on-the-prevalence-of-zero-hours-contracts.pdf.

  • Prentice, Susan. 2020. Fast facts: Pandemic punctures childcare illusion. Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, 25 March. https://policyalternatives.ca/publications/commentary/fast-facts-pandemic-punctures-childcare-illusion.

  • Rubery, Jill. 1997. Wages and the labour market. British Journal of Industrial Relations 35(3): 337–366.

  • Rubery, Jill, and Isabel Távora. 2021. The COVID-19 crisis and gender equality: Risks and opportunities. In Social Policy in the European Union: State of Play 2020, edited by Bart Vanhercke, Slavina Spasova, and Boris Fronteddu, 71–96. Brussels: European Social Observatory and European Trade Union Institute.

  • Rubery, Jill, Damian Grimshaw, Gail Hebson, and Sebastian M. Ugarte. 2015. ‘It’s all about time’: Time as contested terrain in the management and experience of domiciliary care work in England. Human Resource Management 54(5): 753–772.

  • Rubery, Jill, Mathew Johnson, and Damian Grimshaw. 2021. Minimum wages and the multiple functions of wages. In Minimum Wage Regimes: Statutory Regulation, Collective Bargaining and Adequate Levels, edited by Irene Dingeldey, Damian Grimshaw and Thorsten Schulten, 17–35. London: Routledge.

  • Seguino, Stephanie. 2000. Accounting for gender in Asian economic growth. Feminist Economics 6(3): 27–58.

  • Simonazzi, Annamaria. 2009. Care regimes and national employment models. Cambridge Journal of Economics 33(2): 211–232.

  • Skills for Care. 2020. The state of the adult social care sector and workforce in England, September. www.skillsforcare.org.uk.

  • Statistics Canada. n.d. Union stats by industry. https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/t1/tbl1/en/tv.action?pid=1410013201&pickMembers%5B0%5D=2.5&pickMembers%5B1%5D=4.1&cubeTimeFrame.startYear=2017&cubeTimeFrame.endYear=2021&referencePeriods=20170101%2C20210101.

  • The Fair Work Convention. 2019. Fair work in Scotland’s social care sector 2019, 26 February. https://www.fairworkconvention.scot/our-report-on-fair-work-in-social-care/.

  • Tomlinson, Daniel, and Laura Gardiner. 2019. Sorry, we’re closed: Understanding the impact of retail’s decline on people and places. Resolution Foundation Report. https://www.resolutionfoundation.org/publications/sorry-were-closed-understanding-the-impact-of-retails-decline-on-people-and-places/.

  • TUC (Trade Union Congress). 2020. Sick Pay for All. London: TUC https://www.tuc.org.uk/research-analysis/reports/sick-pay-all.

  • United Kingdom, Scottish Government. 2022. Coronavirus (COVID-19): social care staff support fund guidance, 3 October. https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-social-care-staff-support-fund-guidance/pages/fund-admini

  • stration/.

  • Varga, Dóra. 2020. Átalakítják a Munkabeosztásokat a Kereskedelemben az Iskola-bezárások miatt – Jutalmaznák a Több Terhet Vállalókat, 15 March. https://nepszava.hu/3070809_atalakitjak-a-munkabeosztasokat-a-kereskedelemben-az-

  • iskolabezarasok-miatt--jutalmaznak-a-tobb-terhet-vallalokat.

  • Winton, Abbie. 2021. Accelerated automation and digital advances in the world of food retail. Policy@Manchester, 17 August 2021. Manchester: University of Manchester. https://blog.policy.manchester.ac.uk/posts/2021/08/accelerated-automation-and-

  • digital-advances-in-the-world-of-food-retail/.

  • Winton, Abbie. 2022. Applying a social shaping of technology approach to the future of work debate: An examination of food retailing during the Coronavirus pandemic. PhD thesis, Manchester: University of Manchester. https://www.research.manchester.ac.uk/portal/files/231426618/FULL_TEXT.PDF.

  • Wrigley, Neil, and Michelle Lowe. 2002. Reading Retail: A Geographical Perspective on Retailing and Consumption Spaces. London: Routledge.

Monograph Book