Relational Inequality Theory (RIT) argues that relational claims-making- the process of employer-employee exchange relationships explicitly regarding negotiations over resources and rewards- is the central mechanism that produces social inequalities at work. Yet, the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly affected employees and employers, possibly altering their behavior in relational claims-making. Hence, this paper aims to explore if long-standing gender inequalities in employer-employee exchange relationships have reproduced or changed during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is examined (1) whether women and men differ in their response to the pandemic regarding expected employer support with further training to work from home (WFH) and (2) whether employers’ decisions on adequate support depend on employees’ gender. The hypotheses were tested using a linked employer-employee dataset (LEEP-B3) with information on German employees’ working conditions before and during COVID-19. OLS regression models predicted no gender differences in training expectations. However, women are more likely to be provided with less training than they expect from their employers. Thus, employers’ decision-making has not been altered, but gender remains an important determinant in relational claims-making, thereby reproducing gender inequalities. Finally, the workforces’ pre-COVID-19 gender ideologies predicted whether mechanisms are mitigated or enhanced. Hence, these findings underline the crucial role of the workplace context in which employer-employee exchange relationships are embedded.
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