Continuing with our focus this month on women and inequalities in the workplace, a summary of new guidance from Leaders as Change Agents (LACA) has been produced to help employers and employees address these inequalities.
As a result of the pandemic we saw various inequalities emerge or become enhanced. Although the ability to work from home has been a godsend to many women juggling the demands of work and families, many have also experience career stagnation as a result of lack of visibility in the office. For some women the childcare gap expanded, which manifested itself in a number of ways. As one example, recent TUC polling confirms an increased appetite for flexible working in the future, although according to its survey focussed on mothers, the appetite does not appear to be shared by many employers, with only 50% of mothers having their flexible working requests accepted. 86% of mothers who worked flexibly reported they had experienced discrimination and disadvantage as a result.
Some of the more immediate changes brought about by the pandemic within workplaces are, of course, now becoming embedded in the form of longer-term cultural and structural shifts, including to more remote and flexible modes of working. However, due to the speed with which the changes initially came about, employers have not always had the opportunity to take stock of the inequalities which have resulted and to prevent them from similarly becoming embedded.
The new LACA guidance has been produced to respond to the “new normal” post-pandemic business world. LACA is a government-sponsored committee which is led by business-based volunteers. It has worked with 30 volunteers and experts to produce this document, including data consultants Deloitte specifically. The guidance suggests 8 core commitments employers could observe to promote diversity and inclusion in their workplaces. The commitments are flanked by a tangible outcome for employees, an explanation as to why it is important and examples of practical steps employers could take to implement these commitments
The 8 core commitments:
- Empowerment and choice: ensuring employees are given opportunities to grow and contribute to the organisation’s success.
- Diversity, equity and inclusion: ensuring employees know that their leaders and colleagues fundamentally respect them, their backgrounds and their opinions, regardless of role or status within the organisation.
- Growth and development: supporting employees in developing their skills and career.
- Commitment and engagement: reflecting the organisation’s commitment to employees through HR policy and business strategy and ensuring information is shared and concerns are taken seriously.
- Participation in decisions: giving employees the opportunity to make suggestions and have input on processes that affect their jobs.
- Work-life balance: helping employees to balance family, life events and needs outside the workplace and minimising stress.
- Fairness: treating each employee with the same consideration and making workplace guidelines clear and enforceable.
- Recognition and reward: using reward regularly and to reinforce positive behaviours, ensuring it is fair with regard to the work performed.
The guide is designed to help CEOs, senior executives and HR professionals as part of their decision-making processes related to recruitment, training, promotions and workplace culture. The commitments are designed to inspire good practice and measureable outcomes to assist organisations to adopt effective measures. What distinguishes it from the many other sets of guidance on offer for employers is that it focusses not just on internal factors, such as policies, pay and benefits, but also external factors, such as the employer’s brand, the influence of external partnerships and the organisation’s role in the community.
As with any guidance, there is no one size fits all solution and LACA encourages organisations and businesses to think about how they might be implemented in practice by different workplaces.
On the theme of diversity, equality and inclusion specifically, the guide recommends regularly refreshing employment policies to enhance these rights with a view to generating opportunities and measurable outcomes. This specifically includes reviewing remote and flexible work, annual leave and how it can be used, flexibility to move from full to part-time work and vice-versa, and the structure of the working week. The gender and diversity pay gap is also specifically touted as an issue which needs addressing to ensure this core goal is met. The TUC’s latest analysis shows that the current gender pay gap of 15.6% equates to women working an average of 56 days a year for free. Whilst there are numerous diversity and inclusion gaps which need addressing, focussing organisations’ attention on these issues would have the potential to effect meaningful change for women continuing to struggle with bias in the workplace.
The LACA guide is but one amongst many but it could be useful for employers looking to effect real change in the equality, diversity and inclusion of their workplace given its clear core principles and dual internal-external perspectives.