To maintain a harmonious work environment, it’s important for HR and line managers to treat employees as fairly as possible. Fairness needs to be embedded in all HR and people management policies, as well the unwritten ways that people in authority interact with the workforce.
Ensuring no one is discriminated against based on race, sexuality, religion etc. is the obvious first step in creating a fair working environment. But, being fair also extends to current issues like overseas holidays and home or on-site working.
Use Pride Month to reflect and gain feedback
With June being Pride Month, it’s a good time for organisations to reflect on how fairly they are treating their employees. HR should take the lead in looking at whether the business is doing everything it can to eliminate bias and discrimination. This might involve examining current DEI policies to make sure they are still fit for purpose, and speaking to or surveying employees to check that the business is indeed as fair as HR and senior management perceive it to be.
If you have employees who are members of the LGBTQIA+ community – and who feel comfortable speaking with HR about the issues the community faces – Pride Month is a great impetus for starting a conversation about their experiences in the business. If examples of unfair or discriminatory treatment are raised, this is an opportunity for HR and business leaders to support affected employees, and make changes so these situations don’t happen again.
Decide how to manage overseas holiday requests
Many UK employees will be looking forward to travelling overseas for summer holidays this year. But the recent change in status for Portugal[i] should act as a warning about the inherent uncertainty associated with overseas travel in a COVID-19 world. Travel that might not involve quarantine today, could change very quickly!
Businesses should decide now what they will do if an employee needs to isolate unexpectedly following an overseas holiday, rendering them able to work on site. For some businesses and roles, this won’t be an issue. For others, where it’s critical for an employee to be on site, last-minute quarantine might leave the business short staffed and other colleagues unfairly having to pick up the slack.
HR should be communicating the business’ expectations now, so employees know where they stand hopefully ahead of booking trips. This is the best way to ensure everyone is treated fairly, with the same rules being applied to all staff. It’s also worthwhile for HR to keep an eye on Government guidelines, and to encourage employees to do the same.[ii]
Who can work from home and who must work on site?
Throughout COVID-19, a split society emerged, with those who could work from home on one side and those who had to work on site on the other. Both had their advantages and disadvantages. Going forward, businesses will need to think about what’s best for their people and the commercial health of the organisation, making sure decisions are as fair as possible.
It will be helpful for HR to take a lead on deciding whether a job can be done partly or completely from home, to avoid individual line managers making arbitrary decisions resulting in the perception that one team is being given more flexibility than another. Being transparent and clearly communicating the reasons why some jobs can be done from home and why others need to be completed on-site will show the business is acting as fairly as possible, and help to avoid conflict in the workplace – read more about HR’s role in managing conflict, and how good HR systems can help, in Top tips for HR to manage workforce conflict.