Almost one in four women considering quitting work because of COVID 

26 May 2021

Almost a quarter of women are considering leaving, or are likely to leave, the workforce altogether as a result of the impact of COVID-19.

Such were the alarming findings from a survey of 5,000 women across 10 countries including Australia, the US and UK by international consultancy firm Deloitte.

The survey, which included 500 Australian women, found many are at breaking point and leaving the workforce in record numbers. And one economist has warned the exodus could leave women even more marginalised at work.

Increase in workload and caregiving responsibilities are the top reasons why women would consider leaving paid employment.

As bad as it is, that one-in-four figure pales into comparison with the numbers leaving the female-dominated nursing and midwifery professions. According to the Nursing and Midwifery Workforce Climate Survey 2019 - Full Report, half of all survey respondents - SA nurses and midwives - were planning to leave their position within the next five years.

The report found increased high levels of emotional exhaustion and risk of burnout, and alarmingly the online survey was conducted in October, 2019, months before COVID-19 hit our shores and dramatically changed the health care working environment, ramping up the stress levels.

“Health has reached a tipping point. The State Government must act now to create a system which values, retains and attracts more staff, not one that crushes their spirit with double shifts, hospitals running ridiculously overcapacity and unsafe work environments,’’ said ANMF (SA Branch) CEO/Secretary Adj Associate Professor Elizabeth Dabars AM.  

“Ensuring there is a strong and sustainable workforce capacity is critical in light of the significant workforce challenges anticipated in the coming years.

“Failure to take action now will in the very near future result in a system simply unable to meet the demands of the community. Lives inevitably will be lost.’’

The International Council of Nurses estimates the COVID-19 Effect, added to the current shortages and ageing of the nursing workforce, could lead to a potential global shortfall of up to 13 million nurses by 2030. The longer-term impacts of COVID-19 including PTSD are currently unknown but could be extremely significant.

Ms Dabars urged people to join our Action for Health campaign.

See how you can get involved

The ANMF (SA Branch) has written to SA Health chief executive Dr Chris McGowan outlining his Duty of Care to patients and staff alike and our associated concerns over excessive use of extra shifts, double shifts, overtime and related missed/delayed care, and urged him to act.

We have put forward short, medium and long-term solutions:
Immediate Actions (complete within 1-2 months):

  • Cease offering Voluntary Separation Packages
  • Employ those working on fixed-term temporary contracts to ongoing permanent employment
  • Employ those working casual contracts to ongoing permanent employment

Medium-Term Actions (complete within 6 months)

  • Implement the SA Health fatigue management policy
  • Recruit additional graduates (currently approximately only half of the 1,100 graduates are gaining graduate places with SA Health on graduation)
  • Implement the workforce renewal strategy agreed to by SA Health with the ANMF in 2019.

Long-Term Actions:
The Department has indicated its interest in working with us on a Workforce Planning Strategy. We welcome this initiative but any outcomes of this will likely be long-term strategies requiring a 1-5 year lead-in time.

See the letter here

We also remind members of the Nurses and Midwives Fatigue and Organisational Climate Survey which runs until the end of this month.

The 10-minute confidential survey will help highlight to LHNs current issues relating to fatigue and how best to address them, for the mental, emotional and physical wellbeing of nurses and midwives and those in their care.

Thank you if you have already participated in the survey. If not then please access the survey.

Take the survey now