The business need to demonstrate inclusivity has never been higher as consumer expectation of companies, employers and organisations are changing rapidly.
A vital role for unions and equalities reps is holding employers’ feet to the fire on values statements, commitments around gender pay gap and targets to improve diversity.
The inadvertent rise in flexible working brought on by the pandemic could be one of the largest shifts in working cultures in recent decades. According to emerging research and media headlines, it may well be here to stay.
Will it benefit people from underrepresented groups? Or further harm the long fought for progress made by women, BAME, disabled and LGBT+ workers?
To ensure this new norm is something that opens doors for all, companies and employers need to redesign the way their organisations work. For too long the system has been one that was designed for able-bodied white straight men with a wife at home.
If employers really want the future of work to be one that’s inclusive, we need to establish what fair flexible work looks like.
Firstly, it’s important to state that the form of working that office workers have been undertaking for the last 15 months is not the form of flexible working that most people want.
The vast majority of workers I speak to don’t want to work exclusively at home – employees are craving the social interaction visiting an office brings. Most people want a hybrid of remote and office working, with a feeling that they are trusted by their employers, a little more work/life balance and a little less commuting.
To do this, employers need to give careful thought to new working practices to ensure all employees feel their voices continue to be heard and are included, particularly as it is more likely to be workers from equalities groups that opt for more home working.
Here’s a starter for ten that companies can use to keep equality, diversity and inclusion at the forefront of their minds as they redesign workplaces:
- The days of a boardroom meeting with one poor soul on a speakerphone in the corner need to be bade goodbye – if there are remote workers in your team all meetings should remain online as default to ensure a level playing field. Plan ahead and avoid impromptu office meetings which could exclude those at home.
- Make sure remote/flexible working is open to everyone, not just those with caring responsibilities, and open to fathers as well as mothers. This helps to ensure the sharing of domestic work and childcare. It also makes sure men are not still shoring themselves up around the water coolers while women are working from home and missing out on promotion opportunities.
- If your workplace hasn’t done so already, explore support for local co-working spaces while ensuring that home working equipment is adequate. You are still entitled to a health and safety check on your home office set up.
- Individual employees are likely to choose different arrangements to best suit their needs – this is the way it should be. It is important to still ensure that there is a framework of consistency to how agreements are applied to ensure a case-by-case basis does not open decision making up to bias or discrimination.
- Make sure performance management systems focus on just that. Presenteeism no longer works for the modern world of work. When employees can’t be seen, don’t implement virtual ways to monitor your staff – establish a culture of trust, autonomy and empowerment instead.
It will take some time to get our heads around what this looks like, but one of the biggest mistakes an employer can make is to try and think about the equality impact too late in the decision-making process. Implement an equality impact assessment early on, and make sure unintended consequences don’t discriminate against parts of your workforce.
If you want to get more involved in Community’s equalities work, you can join our Facebook group, or register your interest in becoming an equalities rep.