Keeping women safe in the workplace

With a predicted tsunami of job losses on the horizon when the Government Job Retention Scheme (furlough) comes to an end, HR departments will be having a busy time.

This, together with payroll changes due in April, including a rise in the minimum wage, will keep everyone busy dealing with personnel matters.

There are other areas where HR departments can be helpful to employees, with one being the safety of women.

Many will be feeling more vulnerable and anxious, particularly after the brutal killing of Sarah Everard in London and for some will have served as a reminder of previous traumatic experiences. It’s likely that many female colleagues will be feeling like this, so it’s vital they know where they can go to for help and support. Men must also be part of the solution and not just the problem, so this is also a time to show understanding and compassion.

Employee assistance programmes, Occupational Health and specialist charities, as well as employee resource groups, can provide a lifeline of support at times like this, as can informal support networks and creating space for safe conversations.

In the workplace efforts are needed to create physically and emotionally safe and supportive workplaces and organisational cultures.

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) gives practical guidance on sexual harassment in the workplace and provides support on tackling harassment and bullying at work and our guidance on managing and supporting employees experiencing domestic abuse provides information on taking an active supporting role.

Meanwhile, claims that weekly pay growth reached its highest rate for two decades in 2020 were too good to be true, according to a think-tank which has found half of all workers actually experienced a pay cut last autumn.

The Resolution Foundation’s latest quarterly earnings outlook finds that compositional changes in the workforce, such as lower-paid workers losing their jobs, skewed official figures which claimed that nominal average weekly earnings growth reached 4.5 per cent in late 2020.

In fact, pay growth among lower-paid workers fluctuated between 0.2 per cent and 1.4 per cent between April and December 2020, which amounted to a pay cut in real terms.

Higher-paid workers saw their weekly earnings grow between 2.4 per cent and 2.6 per cent during the same period.

The median pay rise for an individual worker in 2020 was 0.6 per cent – a real-terms pay cut of 0.2 per cent, the think-tank claimed.

“The economy experienced its biggest recession in over 300 years last year, with a third of private sector workers put on furlough at its peak. And yet somewhat implausibly, pay growth reached its highest level in almost 20 years,” said Hannah Slaughter, economist at the Resolution Foundation.

“Sadly, the story of bumper pay packets from official headline data is too good to be true. In reality, half of all workers experienced a real-terms pay cut last autumn, with pay growth deteriorating most among those who have been hit hardest by the pandemic – the young, the low-paid, and those working in social sectors like hospitality.”

Younger workers experienced the biggest deterioration in pay growth. Of the 18 to 24-year-olds still in work, annual pay growth fell from 12.3 per cent in 2019 to 6 per cent in 2020. Annual pay growth among 25 to 34-year-olds fell from 4.9 per cent to 1.4 per cent.

This comes on top of the fact that workers in these age groups are more likely to have been furloughed or lost their jobs, the think-tank said.

For help and advice, contact our expert team at AGS HR Solutions