Creating an inclusive workplace culture
Many businesses have no contracts, handbooks or basic policies in place. When a problem occurs, they may find themselves in a difficult situation, trying to work out what to do for the best. Employment tribunals will automatically mark down any employer which has not demonstrated a willingness to provide a fair working environment.
It is good practice to have the following policies in place:
- Equal pay for men and women
- Dignity and respect at work (including bullying, harassment and victimisation)
- Flexible working
An equality policy should include statements on the value your business places on fairness and equality, and outline how these will be put into practice.
Some examples of equality policy statements:
- What behaviour you expect of your staff
- What kind of behaviour is unacceptable
- What staff can expect of you as an employer
Effective communication with staff
Problems with staff often escalate to an employment tribunal because of a lack of communication, or ineffective communication.
Staff should be given information about their rights and encouraged to speak to line managers as soon as they have a problem. Regular, short meetings with appropriate managers should be encouraged when a problem is identified. Encouraging a culture of trust will ensure that staff are confident that issues will be taken seriously.
Involving staff when changes are made to the business can help to foster a culture of openness. How you involve staff will depend on the type, size and structure of your business. This might be done through staff meetings and surveys, or through a trade union representative.
One-to-one meetings with line managers can also be a forum for discussion. Where line managers discuss an individual staff member’s progress, ensure they take a consistent approach. Discrimination and unfair treatment often arises when there has been a failure to manage situations consistently. All managers with a supervisory role should receive equality training.
There is overwhelming evidence that a long hours culture, or ‘presenteeism’, can be harmful to both staff and productivity. Many women perceive that promoted posts will require a significant increase in hours spent at the office which can be challenging for staff with caring responsibilities and acts as a disincentive to applying for a promoted post. Developing flexible working practices can help staff work smarter rather than longer.
Many women find it difficult to access informal work networks, particularly those that are based on after-work socialising. Networking events that require participation in an activity or event stereotypically seen as male, such as golf or football, may prevent female employees attending.
By supporting female staff to participate in women-only networks you can help to build cross-company relationships, emphasise that your business values difference, and help drive cultural change.
Women in Renewable Energy Scotland (WiRES) is a professional, peer-support network for women working in the renewable energy sector. It provides a forum for women working in a range of roles and industries across the sector, and organises networking events, site visits and professional development and skills sessions for members. WiRES also runs a mentoring programme.
Staff on maternity leave
Employers are entitled to make reasonable contact with staff during maternity leave. This might be to discuss arrangements for return to work, or providing an update on significant changes to the workplace.
Women on maternity leave can, by agreement, work for up to 10 days without bringing their leave to an end or affecting their maternity pay. These are called ‘Keeping in Touch’ days. KiT days are designed to let women keep in touch with their employer and the days can be used for any work-related activity including training or attendance at meetings or conferences. Working for part of a day counts as one day’s work and businesses must be aware that any such work only takes place with the agreement of both parties.
There may be limited opportunities for promotion within your business, but opportunities for development can motivate staff to improve performance in existing jobs. Encouraging staff to keep up to date with advances in technology or new developments within an industry will benefit the organisation as well as the individuals concerned.
Research shows that fewer than 10 per cent of men take more than two weeks’ paternity leave after the birth or adoption of a child. When looking at male managers, this falls to just 2 per cent. Creating a culture which is supportive of men sharing caring responsibilities will be beneficial for both male and female staff.
Having recruited talented, skilled, and loyal people to work in your small business or enterprise, you will want to them to stay. It makes business sense to retain good workers for as long as possible, as it takes time, money and effort to recruit and train good staff.
Find out why people want to leave and what steps might encourage them to stay. Exit interviews enable you to find out why employees want to leave, and can highlight issues which you may need to address. Ways of improving staff retention in your business may include:
- Providing an accurate impression of the job at the recruitment stage
- Training line managers in effective supervision, including equality training.
- Providing opportunities for staff to develop skills and progress, where possible.
- Offering sideways moves if promoted posts are not feasible. This can vary experience and make work more interesting.
- Offering flexible working, where possible.
- Avoiding a culture of ‘presenteeism’ where people feel under pressure to work longer hours than are necessary.
- Ensuring staff are not discriminated against.
Health and Safety
Women who require to wear PPE for their jobs often report being issued with ill-fitting equipment that has been designed for men.
Employers have a legal duty to ensure that female employees are provided with equipment that is fit for purpose, taking into account different body shape and size from their male counterparts.
The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 require that the following facilities are provided as a minimum:
- Where possible, separate toilet facilities for men and women, or, failing that, rooms with lockable doors;
- A supply of toilet paper and, for female employees, a means of disposing of sanitary products; and
- Separate use of changing facilities should be available to men and women in working environments where employees are required to change into and wear specialist clothing (overalls, a uniform, thermal clothing, and so on.)