Category: Equality and Diversity

August 4th, 2017 by Michael Millward

The 50th anniversary of the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality has provided an opportunity for employers to encourage their employees especially those from the LGBT community to bring their whole self to work, to be themselves. There are many reasons for this; The company may want to record and promote the diversity of its employees and promote a strategy of inclusion. Or the company may also recognise that people who have to spend their working day pretending to be living a life that is different to their reality could be damaging their own mental health as the pressures to maintain the pretence increase. Linked to this, if people are able to be themselves at work they are likely to be happier, and as a consequence are also likely to be more productive.

Regardless of what motivates an employer, the result, should contribute to a more inclusive society.

Gypsy Queen

I recently saw a play at Slung Low, the pay what’s right for you, theatre in Leeds which explored how people change the way that they treat people after they know that they are LGBT.

In the play, Gypsy Queen, the two main characters are both boxers and both gay. There are a couple of differences between them though. One Dane ‘The Pain’ Samson played by Ryan Clayton is a champion in the conventional Queensbury Rules style and comfortable with his sexuality. The other, ‘gorgeous’ George O’Connell, played by Rob Ward, is a member of the travelling community and a champion bare knuckle street fighter.

When the play starts it is Gorgeous George, who is struggling with his sexuality. It is his meeting with Dane the Pain and their relationship that gives him the confidence to accept and acknowledge his sexuality.

One day, George is the hero, but when he ‘comes out’ he is shunned and goes from hero to less than zero just for being himself.

It is a truly painful watching Rob portray this process, powerless to both move towards living his own life and fight the abuse.

The final consequences are perhaps as predictable as they are tragic.

An HR Perspective

What is interesting about Gypsy Queen from an HR perspective is not so much the process that George goes through, but the way in which the supporting cast of characters change how they treat him as they become aware of his sexuality. He is not fulfilling their perceptions of the type of man that a boxing champion should be, and he has to endure both physical and verbal abuse.

The treatment of these two gay men does not match the image an outsider watching the media coverage of the increasing acceptance of same gender marriage, and the increasing number and size of Pride events all over the country would have of the United Kingdom.

The UK does seem to have adopted the mantra of President Obama of the United States that everyone is entitled to the equal protection of the law regardless of who they love.

Whilst there may be support for LGBT equality in the annual reports of big business and the establishment of an array of support mechanisms the issue for HR and learning and development professionals is how do we transfer this commitment in to the work place that is often more likely to reflect the experiences that George had.

Research from the Trades Union Congress indicates that more than a third of LGBT workers in the UK has experienced harassment, bullying or discrimination at work. More than 5,000 people responded to the survey, almost 30% of this was perpetrated by a manager, and about 14% by a client or patient.

It is perhaps not surprising that more than half of LGBT people do not disclose their sexuality to work colleagues.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady has said that despite the UK fast becoming a more equal and accepting country, it is shocking that in 2017 so many lesbian, gay, bi and trans people around the UK still experience discrimination and harassment at work just because of their sexuality or because they are trans.

Ms O’Grady called on employers to enforce zero tolerance policies when it comes to the harassment of LGBT employees. She described homophobia and transphobia at work as undermining, humiliating and can have a huge effect on mental health.

We have however seen that companies are acting, but the message does not seem to be getting through to workers who appear from the TUC research and similar research conducted by Stonewall to be still treating LGBT colleagues unfairly.

Members of the CIPD LGBT plus Friends Group celebrate London Pride 2017

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) has taken a lead in committing to promoting inclusion

Unfortunately, our work places are a reflection of the society in which we live.

It is not acceptable to make a negative comment to someone based on the colour of their skin or their religion, just look at the furor created when a Conservative politician used the N word, or when a journalist refers to the pay that Jewish celebrities are given.

The condemnation in these cases was justified, but there are few word related to sexuality that would engender the same flurry of coverage. It remains socially acceptable to make negative comments about someone’s actual or perceived sexuality or sexual identity. This is despite as research reported in The Independent shows men who are homophobic are likely to be trying to hide their own interest in homosexuality.

The solution is perhaps two-fold.

  • We need more education both in schools and the work place about equality, diversity and inclusion, so that people know what is and what is not acceptable, and
  • we also need as HR professionals to be vigilance in identifying instances of discrimination and acting quickly to make sure that the offenders are dealt with and the victims supported.

If as employers and HR professionals we tell our employees to bring their whole self to work, because it will make them happier and more productive, then we owe it to them to protect them when they take us at our word.

If you have been subject to bullying, harassment or discrimination at work, because of your actual or perceived sexuality or sexual identity there is advice here.

For information about learning resources and training courses that support a diverse and inclusive work place.

Read my review of Gypsy Queen at Culture Vulture

Posted in Business Ethics, Equality and Diversity, Theatre

October 1st, 2016 by Michael Millward

Like sexism and racism, changing social norms is possible. It is time to stop defining people by their age. It will result in more prosperous, equitable and healthier societies.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has published research which shows that casual and institutional negative attitudes towards older people really are having a negative affect on both the mental and physical health of older people.

More than 83,000 people in 57 countries took part in the WHO World Values Survey which assessed attitudes to older people across all age groups. Fully 60% of respondents reported that older people are not respected.  The lowest levels of respect were reported in high income countries.

We are all getting older

By 2025 the number of people aged 60 and over will double, and by 2050 will reach 2 billion globally, with the vast majority of older people living in low and middle income countries.

John Beard, WHO Director of Ageing and Life Course said that

“This analysis confirms that ageism is extremely common.  Yet most people are completely unaware of the subconscious stereotypes they hold about older people.”

Ageism and health

If a person perceives themselves to be less valuable to society than other people because of something that they cannot change that feeling is bound to affect their physical and mental health.

Those same perceptions can be the cause of social isolation which can put people at risk of depression and other mental illnesses.

Negative views about getting older can also result in a shorter lifespan by an average of 7.5 years.

Benefits from Positivity

“Society will benefit from this ageing population if we all age more healthily” said Alana Officer, Coordinator, Ageing and Life Course. “But to do that, we must stamp out ageist prejudices.”

Ageism can take many forms.

  • Depicting older people as frail, or dependent on others is not an accurate way to show older people
  • Not every older person is out of touch with the latest technology and the media,
  • Rationing health care for older people directly impacts life expectancy
  • Mandatory retirement ages limit the ability of people to support themselves and contribute to their communities.

Life should not be restricted by age.

Age limits applied to policies such as retirement age for example, do not recognize the range of capacities of the older person – and assume that all older persons are the same. This deeply entrenched institutionalised ageism may be used to discriminate against older adults when allocating health resources or when collecting data that influence health policies.

In May 2016 the World Health Assembly called on the Director-General to develop a global campaign to combat ageism, and implement the WHO Global Strategy and Action Plan on Ageing and Health.

The International Day of Older Persons, celebrated today, highlights the important contributions that older people make to society and raises awareness of the issues and challenges of ageing in today’s world.  The theme for 2016, Take a Stand Against Ageism, urges everyone to consider ageism and the detrimental impact it has on older people.

Union Learn the training service from the TUC is also taking an interest in age related issues and is interested in the development of middle-aged and older workers.

They have invited people to contribute to their own 2016 Supporting Mid-life Development/older workers survey.

All completed survey’s will be entered into a prize draw to win a Kindle!

Union Learn would especially like to hear from people who have

  • used the Value My Skills cards?
  • organised mid-life or older workers activities?
  • delivered mid-life career reviews or had a review yourself?
  • engaged with their employer and union on this agend

The survey is a chance to contribute to the development of Union Learn future activities and resources.

The survey shouldn’t take more than 10 minutes to complete.

For your chance to win a Kindle please complete the survey by Friday the 28th of October 2016. The winner will be randomly selected and contacted via email.

Access the survey here

Posted in Age, Equality and Diversity

September 29th, 2016 by Michael Millward

From next year companies with more than 250 employees will be required to publish details of the gap in the hourly rates that men and women are paid.

Acas describe the gender pay gap as the average difference between men and women’s aggregate hourly pay. This gap can be the result of differences in jobs and industries, the types of jobs carried out by men and women and differences in the length of the working week.

Accountancy firm Deloitte said the hourly pay gap between men and women of 9.4%, or about £1.30, was narrowing by just two-and-a-half pence a year. At this rate it will be 2069 before the gender pay gap in the UK is closed.

Ironically it is the traditional male STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) jobs in the gender pay gap is smallest although women make up only 14.4% of the STEM workforce.

However, the Deloitte analysis, based on data from the Office for National Statistics, found women earn an average of 8% less in graduate starting salaries than their male counterparts across all (STEM) subjects combined.

Careers that traditionally attract women like health care had some of the largest differences with female graduates earning 14% less than their male counterparts.

The Gender Pay comparison regulations will come into force in 2017 when employers will be required to calculate gender pay gaps over a 12-month period from 30 April, and to make that information public for three years.

Key points

  • The gender pay gap is not the same as equal pay or pay discrimination.
  • The Equality Act 2010 requires all employers who employ 250 or more to calculate the hourly pay for women in comparison to the hourly rate for men.
  • Employers are required to publish the figures on the organisation’s website and submit evidence of compliance annually to the Government.
  • Employers will also need to calculate and publish a separate gender bonus gap.

Gender pay gap reporting was included in the Equality Act 2010 to create greater transparency and fairness between the genders. The up side for employers is that it can also help an employer to build a positive reputation with both existing and potential employees. It is for this reason that all employers need to start thinking about their gender pay gap.

There are an increasing number of measures introduced by Westminster to highlight inequality in pay.

Equal pay deals with the pay differences between men and women who carry out the same or similar jobs. It is these types of organisations that are likely to have a higher gender pay gap. This new gender pay gap reporting differs from equal pay as it is concerned with the differences in the average pay between men and women over a period of time no matter what their role is.

As gender pay reporting deals with the averages between the pay of men and women it will identify those organisations that have achieved equal pay across genders but who have a higher level of men in senior jobs and women in junior roles.

This may not be the result of discriminatory actions by employers it can simply be the consequence of different career and life choices made by employees, based on traditional gender roles, which is a much bigger issue.

Calculating the gender pay gap

Employers will need to calculate the hourly rate for women in comparison to the hourly rate for men.

The hourly rate will be the pay employees receive during their normal pay period in which the 30th April 2017 falls, then employers will need to carry out the exercise every year on the same date.

Pay periods may differ for employees in the same organisation, for example for employees paid weekly it will be the one week around 30th April while for salaried staff it will be the whole month or four-week period in which that date falls.

Employers are required to calculate the percentage difference between the:

  • mean (average) gross hourly pay of women in relation to men
  • the mid-point (median) gross hourly pay value of women in relation to men.

Employers will need to calculate the number of men and women in each pay quartile as this information will also need to be published.

Bonus pay must also be included when they relate to an employee’s normal pay, but bonus payments will be calculated separately. The regulations require employers to calculate and publish a separate gender bonus gap report. Unlike the gender pay gap that looks at the employee’s pay period that includes the 30 April, the bonus gap will include all bonus payments made in the 12 months up to and including the 30th April.

Bonus payments are likely to include such payments as:

  • profit sharing
  • productivity payments
  • performance payments
  • commission.

Publishing the gender pay report

Employers must publish an annual statement on their website and inform the Government about their annual assessment of their gender pay gap. The information submitted to the Government will be accessible to the public. The information must be held on-line for three years.

It is likely that job-hunters will use this information to compare potential employers

Posted in Abeceder, Equality and Diversity, Pay and Benefits, Pay and Benefits

October 8th, 2012 by Michael Millward

Michael Millward joined Jonathan Cowup host of the BBC Radio York Morning show this morning to discuss changing attitudes to what we consider to be acceptable behaviour at work.

The discussion was prompted by the recent press coverage about the BBC presenter Jimmy Saville and accusations that he led a double life, as what the Metropolitan Police described as a predatory sex offender.  

Mr Millward explained that the type of behaviour of which there is increasing evidence that Jimmy Saville was involved in is no less acceptable now that it was in past. It is just that we are now prepared to talk about it, whereas in the past we were not.

The nation has been shocked that someone like Jimmy Savile who was a very active volunteer with several charities and widely regarded as a friendly eccentric could also be a long-term sex offender.

Many people have been surprised that the people who are now reporting what happened to them or activities that they witnessed many years ago to the police did not come forward at the time. The reason many of them say is that they did not beleive that they would be believed.

This is often also the case when people are subject to inappropriate behaviour at work, said Mr Millward, people may also worry about the impact making a complaint may have on their position at work, and their future career prospects.

The situation is no easier for someone who witnesses inappropriate behaviour against someone else, continued Mr Millward, if the person who is the subject of the behaviour is not complaining then who are we to complain on their behalf?, he asked.

People who are subject to inappropriate behaviour do need to find the courage to speak out, either directly to the perpetrator or to a friend or colleague.

Every company, no matter how small needs to have a policy and a procedure that covers this type of scenario, and they need to ensure that these are understood by all their employees.

The perpetrator of the inappropriate behaviour may not be another employee, it could be a customer or supplier, a delivery driver. They may not actually physically visit the company premises, the inappropriate behaviour could be over the telephone or increasingly over the internet. In some cases it may tale place in a customers premises. Employees need to know that their employer will support them when they are subject to inappropriate behaviour no matter what the source is.

One of the biggest causes of problems is when one person thinks that something is funny, yet the person who is the subject of the joke does not, instead feeling intimidated.

Mr Millward encouraged people who find themselves the subject of unwanted ‘humour’ to speak out. Either as the joke is make or later when the situation has calmed down. He also encouraged people who make a joke that only they find funny to apologise.

Posted in BBC Radio York, Equality and Diversity, Olympis Games

April 30th, 2012 by Michael Millward

Michael Millward joined Elly Fiorentini on the BBC Radio York Drive Show this evening to discuss the impact on the North Yorkshire jobs market of the ruling by the Supreme Court in what is being referred to as the Seldon Judgement that despite anti age discrimination legislation an employer can force their older employees to retire at an age determined by the company.

Mr Millward said that the full judgement is quite complex and involves various different factors, we are not looking at a carte blanche entitlement for employers to return to using the default retirement age, which was removed in October 2011. Straight-forward explanation

It is true said Mr Millward that the judgement does allow employers to set their own retirement age for employees, but they must make sure that that retirement age is in order to fulfil either their internal or public policy objectives.

CWJ claimed in the court case that their retirement policy which led to Mr.Leslie Seldon who had been a senior civil litigation partner at Clarkson Wright and Jakes (CWJ) leaving when he reached the age of 65 met these requirements because it

  • allowed effective succession planning of partners and the workforce;
  • provided associates with a clear opportunity of partnership, so aided retention (both of these two reasons were referred to as the “collegiality” reasoning); and
  • avoided the need to expel partners through performance management,  (the “dignity” point).

Supreme Court judgements said Mr Millward are never straight-forward, whilst the Court did say that they accepted in principle that private employer could have its own default retirement age (DRA), it also narrowed the circumstance in which this was acceptable by declaring that to be legitimate that age must also facilitate the achievement of wider public policy objectives such as:

  • An employment policy,
  • Circumstances within the labour market or
  • Creating vocational training opportunities

The Supreme Court accepted CWJ’s claim that their aims were legitimate in terms of public policy objectives, but also said that there had not been enough investigation about whether or not selecting the retirement age of 65 was a proportionate means of achieving those aims, the Supreme Court defining “proportionate” as “appropriate” and “necessary” to achieve the aims.

So although the Supreme Court has made its decision it has also sent the case back to the Employment Tribunal, which it criticised for not examining the evidence in more detail, so that that closer examination can be conducted.

It is not until that examination has been concluded that a final judgement will be made.

So employers should not assume that what has happened so far gives them the right to start retiring their older employees. Far from it said Mr Millward the final outcome of the case may make it more difficult to justify a company having its own default retirement age and could lead to an increase in claims of age discrimination.

Mr Millward said that since the removal of the DRA some businesses had decided that the best way to remove older workers is by performance managing them out of the business. But he advised if you are not applying your performance management standards equally to all your employees and an older employee can prove you were stricter with them than a twenty-something then you face the risk of an age discrimination claim just as you would if you attempted to force someone to retire.

It seems strange that whilst I am hearing employers say that they want to retire older workers and bring in new blood, I am also hearing them decry younger workers who are less productive than older people and lack their work ethic and attention to detail.

Since the removal of the DRA said Mr Millward most businesses have dealt with it without any problems and are seeing it deliver real business benefits.

If anything said Mr Millward the main message to be taken from this complex ruling is that providing well evidenced reasons to justify the retention of a retirement age and the importance of good performance management to safely dismiss a person fairly on the basis of capability rather than their age is extremely difficult.

As Chairman of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) North Yorkshire branch Mr Millward said that compulsory retirement should only be implemented in exceptional and well evidenced circumstances, which should be applied across all forms of employment.

Dismissing people because of their age, rather than their performance and capability, is not only potentially unfairly discriminatory, but counter-productive too.

Despite all the publicity around the benefits of having a diverse workforce the message is not getting through to the people that it needs to reach. Restricting your workforce to people who are generally similar means that you are robbing your business, and the economy as a whole of the talent and skills are needed to thrive in the modern, competitive world. Good succession planning said Mr Millward is about ensuring that there are employees with the right talent, skills and attitudes to sustain business performance. It is not about throwing well-performing older workers out just because there are ambitious younger workers snapping at their heels.

The evidence is plain to see said Mr Millward, this year students at York St.John University have been investigating the business aspects of diversity, and will be holding an event about it on 24th April, more.

“Recent CIPD labour market analysis has shown that it is a fallacy to assume that young people are not getting jobs because they are waiting for people to retire. Indeed the opposite may be true. Once an older person becomes unemployed they find it more difficult to get work than their younger colleagues do.

Another aspect of the problem said Mr. Millward is that older people are being compelled to continue working beyond what their parents viewed as the retirement age.

In reality said Mr. Millward people are not saving enough for their retirement and are facing the very real prospect of a real drop in income and financial hardship if they give up work completely.

Retirement as a part of the life of ordinary people has only been with us for just over 100 years and what it means has changed dramatically in that time. We all need to think again about what retirement means and how we prepare for it financially.

Posted in Age, BBC Radio York, Pensions, Retirement