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Workplace Equality Report 2021 – Phase 1

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4th October 2021
- More than half of workers concerned that choosing remote working will create inequality
- Of those, 38% worry that they will be asked to take a pay cut and 60% fear that career progress will slow
- 85% of workers in favour of a four-day working week
- Pandemic created workplace inequality between parents and non-parents say 36%

As employees begin a phased return to the workplace, more than half (53%) worry that deciding to work remotely post-pandemic will cause workplace inequality, according to the 2021 Matrix Recruitment Workplace Equality Survey.

Of those, 38% are concerned that they would be asked to take a pay cut if they work remotely full time and 60% worry that it could impact their career progression.

Now in its fourth year, the 2021 survey of almost 1,200 adults covers a wide range of workplace issues including discrimination, racism, gender pay gaps and the pandemic’s impact on the world of work. Phase one focused on the impact of the pandemic on workers and the workplace.

Fear of being forgotten if choosing to work remotely

While many companies and organisations are offering a hybrid model, the survey highlighted the multitude of concerns among workers in Ireland. Of particular concern was what the workplace would be like as pandemic restrictions lift and a new flexible working model is rolled out in businesses across the country.

Of those who are concerned that remote working post-pandemic will create inequality at work (53%), the survey also found that:

  • 52% are fearful that they will be forgotten about during meetings if they choose to work remotely full time

  • 48% worry that their boss will consider their decision to work remotely a reflection of their commitment to the company

  • Almost half (47%) are concerned that they will be overlooked for a promotion and 40% are anxious that they will be forgotten about for projects if they are not in the office

As people begin a phased return to work feelings of dread and heightened concerns around modified workplaces, the prospect of hot desking, the daily commute along with the prospect of permanent remote working are commonplace.  This is completely normal as workers and workplaces readjust.

Many workers have enjoyed a better work/life balance over the past 18 months working from home during restrictions and it’s understandable that those who want to continue to work from home, full-time, or part-time, are worried that it will negatively impact their career as we figure out this new way of working post-lockdown.

Fitting five days into four hugely complex says Matrix Recruitment

The majority (85%) of those surveyed are in favour of the introduction of a four-day working week.

  • Of those, almost all say that it will boost employee health and wellbeing (85%) and create a better work/life balance (86%).

  • More than half (57%) are of the view that most people could fit five days work into four.

However, of the 15% not in favour of a four-day working week, almost one in four (38%) stated that it would create a very pressurised environment. More than one third (36%) of respondents said that it would results in longer working days.

Almost three quarters (72%) of respondents who do not support the idea of a four-day working week say that this way of working isn’t feasible in every industry. 25% said it would be unfair for those already working part-time.

The prospect of a four-day working week is gathering momentum and the Irish Government is currently funding research to understand the implications of its introduction. On the surface, a four-day working week has plenty of appeal and can bring many benefits, but such a fundamental change is a highly complex process and there would be huge challenges in trying to make this model work to suit every job and every industry.

Even within companies where it could work, a four-day workweek will only suit certain departments and teams, which would lead to inequality in the workplace. There’s a lot to consider before this working model can be rolled out across the country.

More expected of working mothers during the pandemic

According to the 2021 Matrix Recruitment Workplace Equality Survey, 36% of respondents said that the pandemic had created workplace inequality between those with and those without children.  Of that cohort:

  • 38% were of the view that more work was expected of employees without children

  • However, over half (54%) said that more was expected of mothers when it came to juggling childcare and work during Covid-19 restrictions

The past year has been a difficult one for business owners, particularly when it came to supporting workers with children and ensuring there was equal treatment for those without children during the pandemic. The survey findings indicate that many employees without children feel they shouldered a heavier workload over the past year. Meanwhile, it appears that parents who had to juggle work and childcare are frustrated that they were expected to perform to their usual standard at work, despite having added burdens such as homeschooling and childcare needs.

The majority of parents surveyed (63%) say that the pandemic has not made them reconsider their role in the workforce; 3% quit their job to become a stay-at-home parent over the past year. 10% say they have moved to full-time remote work over the past year in order to spend more time with their children.

About the survey

The fourth Matrix Workplace Equality Survey was conducted online in August 2021 among 1,178 adults working across a broad range of industries, sectors and regions.

View our 2020 results

View our 2019 results

View our 2018 results

View full 2021 Workplace Equality Infographic here

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