If the Covid19 Pandemic has taught us anything – it is about having empathy. It brought many of us a greater sense of awareness of our vulnerabilities, and what makes humanity one.
Over the past 2 years, ill health, fear, anxiety, and for many, loss have been the result of the Coronavirus itself, but we also had many other notable events which have affected most sections of our global society. The George Floyd murder and BLM movement, fuel shortages, food shortages, protests in the LGBTQ+ community, seeming problems within the British Royal Family, and the exit of President Trump – we have been bombarded with many unprecedented news stories and situations, which have affected us all emotionally.
One outcome of this, however, is that employers are now paying greater weight on ensuring the well-being of their employees. With many now having a broader, some may say softer view on what helps attract, retain and motivate employees in light of recent world events.
There are a number of new policies and ways of working being introduced by employers that extend past the realms of just Flexible Working.
The following 5 policies are some basics employers can update or consider and consult with their employees to implement:
- Diversity Equity Inclusion & Belonging – One of the pros of the pandemic, isolation, and primarily working from home, is that we all saw a bit more of our colleagues’ lives, even calling customer services you could hear dogs and children in the background – diversity is what makes us different and our differing needs because of those differences became more apparent during this time. Most businesses have a diversity equity and inclusion policy by now – however, there is much more of a feeling now about what that means, how do your employees feel, and what evidence is there that your current DEI&B policy is working? What is your gender pay gap, what are your ethnicity and disability stats, and what do you have in place to support equity and inclusion in your workplace? Does your company culture promote a feeling of belonging for all your employees? Your DEI policy is key, but it has to be a living policy, it has to feed through to your company strategy, all the way through to operations, with targets that don’t only produce stats but a change in company culture, and in how part of your organization employees feel.
- Parents & Carers – Now you may already have a parental leave policy, which will talk about government statutory parental leave entitlements, and if there are any occupational entitlements that are offered – however many of the issues that have come to the fore have given a broader and more specific brief in terms of the myriad of life’s challenges, and therefore areas of support working parents could require. A parent and carer policy would cover things such as Statutory and Occupational Parental Leave; Adoption, Fostering & Surrogacy; Pregnancy and Fertility Treatment; Parental Bereavement, Miscarriage, and Baby Loss. There are no rules about what you would put into such a policy, however, ACAS does guide employers on this. I advise clients to look at what situations have come up over the last few years that they have had to deal with, then do some research into what other organizations are doing, and if they think it is appropriate, survey their employees on what support they feel they would need.
- Anti-Racism Policy/Statement – You may wonder why this is a separate element and not part of the Diversity Equity Inclusion and Belonging policy. This is because 2020 taught us that it is not enough for anti-racism to be assumed or presumed. We had watched a law enforcement officer take another man’s life in broad daylight seemingly only because he was black. Many organizations, particularly in the Charity sector have reacted to this by putting out public anti-racism statements, to show that ‘not only will we comply with the Equality Act 2010, but we will also actively and vocally denounce racism, and will put things in place to ensure that our organization stands against it.‘ It’s a policy that will ensure your employees from various ethnic groups, that they are protected and seen by their employer, and shows society that racism will not be tolerated in any of your business activities.
- Gender Equality Policy – In addition to those identifying as women, the Trans, Non-Binary and other genders movement has gained momentum over the past few years. As society starts to understand more about this group and its needs, it is evident that more needs to be done to extend inclusion to these groups, particularly in the workplace. In addition to staff training, including a policy informed by underrepresented genders in the workplace will help to ensure that company culture and feeling of belonging includes everyone.
- Disability & Neurodiversity – We have been aware for a long time of the barriers those with disabilities face in employment. The statistics based on this haven’t changed dramatically over the past decade. Much like the Diversity policy, a disability policy needs to be attached to tangible actions to ensure that it remains a living document, however, due to the disparity for this particular group, much like the anti-racism policy, it should have separate visibility. Neurodiversity has become the Zeitgeist recently, and many of those that have a Neurodiverse condition but who have just been silently trying to ‘get on with it with little or no support from employers, are now being offered understanding and support around their additional needs. Another taboo subject that is now being included is Menopause, as a woman who started early menopause it’s refreshing to now have male colleagues understand when I am all of a sudden fanning myself in a cold room. Recent evidence has confirmed that menopause should be included as a disability due to the mental and physical effects it has on women for a sustained period of time.
There is no right or wrong way to write a policy, I always suggest looking at staff surveys or creating bespoke surveys to ascertain what your employees need, implement, and then set a time for review.