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3 progressive HR policies for forward-thinking employers

By now, the long-term effects of COVID on the modern workplace are clear. Most notably, a precedent has been set for remote and hybrid working, health and safety protocols are tighter, and in many cases the adoption of technology has accelerated.

But even at this point, almost two years on, the pandemic may still catalyse some subtler, unforeseen changes to organisational policy.

The common denominator here is that, following the radical changes we’ve endured in recent times, employers are now equipped with a newfound progressive outlook. So, as HR teams and employers finally find the headspace to take stock of the situation, and revisit their current practices to ensure they are fit for the future, this shift in attitude could play a key role in developing existing policies or introducing new ones.

Adopting more progressive policies in relation to areas such as benefits and wellbeing stands to have a profound effect on employees, which could conceivably translate into improved engagement, retention and job performance for the organisation.

With this in mind, here are some examples of the sorts of workplace policies that forward-thinking organisations are already adopting, which others could (and perhaps should) consider implementing in the months ahead.

Miscarriage policy

With October being World Menopause Awareness Month, women’s health should currently be very much on the radar of employers.

Naturally, miscarriage falls firmly into that category, and is statistically likely to impact an employee in any given workplace at some stage.

Research conducted by Imperial College makes this clear – it estimates that , and that nearly a third of women suffer from post-traumatic stress a month on from miscarriage.

What’s more, UK miscarriage charity Tommy’s estimates that one in four women experience at least one miscarriage in their lives.

Needless to say, these statistics are more than striking enough to highlight the importance of employers addressing the matter.

Though still uncommon, some organisations have addressed the matter already. Channel 4 are a key example, having launched a dedicated pregnancy loss policy in April of this year.

Part of a campaign to “end the stigma around women’s health issues”, the policy includes: two weeks’ leave on full-pay; paid leave for medical appointments; flexible working; and an array of resources, including medical support, counselling and a buddying scheme to support employees returning to work after a loss.

As Deborah Garlick, Author at Henpicked: Menopause in the Workplace, points out: “Three years ago, you’d have been hard pushed to find an organisation with a menopause policy. Since then, there’s been something of a seismic shift, with the topic of menopause gaining traction in headlines and company agendas alike.” Given the growing awareness around miscarriage, it’s conceivable that many organisations will similarly adopt such a policy in the coming years.

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Financial wellbeing policy

With the UK unemployment rate currently estimated at 4.6% (0.6 percentage points higher than before the pandemic) and analysts warning that a cost of living crisis may be looming, financial health is becoming a more talked about topic.

However, this doesn’t quite reflect in employers’ offerings. A CIPD poll of more than 400 employers found that nearly half did not have a policy on financial wellbeing, increasing to more than two thirds in lower-paying sectors.

At the same time, employers in those sectors were also more likely to say that they thought their employees’ finances had been adversely affected by the pandemic.

But a turning point could be on the horizon. Not only is the topic of financial health now more on the employers’ radars than ever, but the CIPD has also urged all large businesses to have a financial wellbeing policy in place.

It states that this should include:

  • Signposting to financial wellbeing advice, such as the resources available from the Money and Pensions Service
  • Targeted financial education support at key moments in working lives, for example ahead of maternity leave
  • Revising benefits packages to include finance-friendly initiatives, like giving employees the option to choose how often they are paid
  • Implementing flexible working policies so that employees with caring responsibilities can balance working enough hours to comfortably pay their bills
  • Giving people security over their hours and helping them to progress into higher-paid roles
  • Committing, where possible, to paying all employees at least the Real Living Wage.

While businesses that are still recovering from the financial impact of the pandemic may not be in a position to grant pay rises, other measures – such as signposting to independent support, allowing greater flexibility over working arrangements and running workshops – involve little to no cost, so are well worth thinking about.

Burnout policy

Mental health is another area that has been the subject of major public discourse throughout the pandemic, with the unprecedented climate causing undue stress to people from all walks of life.

While this is generally common knowledge, the statistics really put it into perspective. One study, for instance, carried out by UK mental health charity Mind, found that the wellbeing of 41% of employees had worsened during the pandemic.

In many cases, employers have been quick to respond to this, implementing a number of measures to keep staff happy, safe and supported through the tough spell.

But with countless businesses now attempting to return to normal, it remains to be seen whether this momentum continues and organisations’ progressive attitude towards mental health persists.

Once again, certain employers are leading the charge. In August, Nike announced that its Oregon headquarters would be “powering down” in order to hand employees an opportunity to recover from the pressures of COVID-19. And in recent months, many large UK retailers, including Home Bargains, Aldi and the Co-op, have announced that staff will be given extra time off at Christmas in recognition of employees’ hard work this past year.

With that in mind, there is a growing precedent for employers to implement such measures on an ongoing basis, along with other benefits such as access to counselling and “no-screen” periods at allocated times during the working week.

The impact of this on both sides has the potential to be powerful. Research conducted by Deloitte earlier this year found that poor mental health costs UK employers up to £45bn annually, and that for every £1 an employer spends on mental health interventions, they get £5 back in reduced absence, presenteeism and turnover.

From this perspective, during a time where financial hardship and workforce stability are major considerations for businesses, the benefits are clear.

Develop your HR policies with expert support

Whether you’re keen to get ahead of the curve with progressive policies like these, or just want to make sure you have all the essentials in place, our Employment Law and HR specialists can help. 

We can provide you with a full set of tailored policies, review and update your existing ones to ensure they are legally compliant and promote best practice, and even carefully craft and advise on any new ones you are looking to introduce.

For more information and to discuss your specific needs, get in touch on 0345 226 8393.

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