Written by HEIDI WADSWORTH
Equality and fairness in the workplace has never been higher on the HR agenda. Tougher legislation, a general culture shift and high-profile media cases have ensured these issues are now firmly in the spotlight. But, despite significant strides being made, how far have we really come as we mark Human Rights Day this December?
The statistics speak for themselves. Gender pay gap figures released earlier this year revealed that eight in 10 UK firms pay men more than women, and there is a median pay gap between men and women of around 10 per cent. These figures don’t discount the fact that progress has been made. For the better half of the 20th century, women were paid around 60 per cent of what their male counterparts earned, but the gap has, of course, been lessening since the 1970s.
So, in terms of gender, it’s fair to say we have some distance to travel. Innovative and forward-thinking companies have already heavily invested in HR strategies that ensure and celebrate gender equality, but it may be some years before we reach a level playing field across all business sectors.
When we think of HR equality, gender is normally the first consideration. But most employers will know that equality legislation extends across a wide range of areas, including age, disability, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion, sexual orientation and gender re-assignment.
If we take age as one example, a recent report on behalf of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy revealed there are 10.2m people over 50 in employment in the UK, and the majority said employers need to make them feel more welcome in the workplace. More than three-quarters of the 12,000 respondents said they would like more flexible hours and 73 per cent said they wanted to see more part-time positions offered. This is just a snapshot, but is probably the tip of the iceberg in terms of how far many companies still need to go to ensure fairness.
So why is an equality strategy so important to businesses as we approach the end of the second decade of the new millennium? Reputation management and legal compliance are the most obvious reasons, but there is another rationale that is just as important. Having a diverse, happy workforce that has confidence in you as a fair employer will pay dividends in the long-term – in terms of morale, staff retention, and productivity – and is the foundation stone of a successful business.
To sum up, the conclusion has to be: work in progress! Inequalities still exist in the workplace and there is no quick fix. But the tide has definitely turned, and for the better.
As we approach the start of a new year, here’s five good practice tips for employers:
Look into providing company-wide equality training that ensures all employees have a mutual understand of your equality and diversity policies.
The workplace has changed significantly from 20 years ago and the nine to five shift is no longer the benchmark of a typical working day. Demonstrating your organisation understands lifestyles and family demands will make it a more attractive place to work and a practical option for those who might otherwise be excluded.
- Recruit Widely
Ensure you are attracting a varied talent pool through your recruitment strategies and consider developing links across the community with colleges, universities and training providers.
Don’t act in isolation! Consider what other businesses are doing and look at the option of seeking outside specialist advice to ensure best practice.
Standing still is not an option! Regularly review employee diversity and salaries, your company’s equality policies and look to see where further progress could be made.