The social case
- Large corporations have a responsibility to be a good corporate citizen and shape a future viable society – this includes recognising your corporate footprint on your employee and supplier community and the impact you have on societal cohesiveness
- Being known as a good corporate citizen may attract more customers and top-talent over time
- Being mindful of social impact can lead to a more sustainable business model long-term
- Employers should think, post-austerity, about meeting the triple agenda of: enhancing employee work-life balance; sustaining or enhancing organisational effectiveness; and contributing to social justice
“Highlighting corporate social responsibility (CSR) is seen as one way to bridge the gap between employer and employee and more broadly society as a whole. CSR is about business acknowledging its responsibility for the impact of its activities on the environment, consumers, employees and the wider community. By operating in this way CSR can have a positive impact on an organisation’s bottom line. For example, reducing waste and CO2 emissions not only has an environmental impact but it can save money.”
“Of the quality job vacancies, 6.2 per cent are advertised with options to work flexibly (around 24,290 jobs a month). Demand for quality flexible jobs (47 per cent across all salary levels) far exceeds this supply. There are 8.1 people in poverty for each quality flexible vacancy, of whom 7.4 people are workless. For quality full-time jobs, the demand is only 0.9 workless people for each vacancy. An eight-fold increase in the number of quality flexible job vacancies would be needed for supply versus demand to match that of quality full-time jobs. There are 87,000 people qualified to NQF Level 2 who could benefit from increased earnings if there was an increase in quality part-time and flexible vacancies, because of the availability of flexible jobs with a salary below £19,500 that are currently taken by over-qualified people.”
“What happens to work-life balance in a time of economic recession and austerity measures? Do economic pressures overshadow social and individual concerns and if so, are policies and practices to support work-life balance threatened, or will austerity drive innovative and positive changes? There is evidence that suggests work-life balance was (and continues to be) an effective tool that helps organisations navigate through recession and economic turbulence, and that innovative practice emerged around flexibility as a response to recession. But there is also evidence that individual choice in how work-life balance was achieved was constrained, as organisations used flexibility on their own terms. Navigating the triple agenda is complex, and employers need to ensure that measures around flexibility they implement sustain individual choice and social justice.”
BT found that 59 per cent of employees said their corporate responsibility and sustainability programmes made them proud to work for the company. As a ‘fair employer’ BT has also developed a portfolio of leading edge working practices e.g. flexible working. More than 15,000 of its employees work from home and some 64,000 are equipped to work flexibly, using whichever locations are convenient to them on a particular day. Together with other initiatives it has made it possible for the percentage (over the last 5 years) of its UK female employees returning to work after taking maternity leave to reach 96 – 99 per cent, more than the twice the national average.
Centrica seeks advice from and works closely with expert groups such as Carers UK. When people leave the paid workforce, often due to the demands of caring, it can be difficult to return. Centrica is broadening its commitment to diversity by developing a ‘Cross-business Returnship Programme’. This programme aims to attract and enable skilled people who have been out of work for extended periods of time to return to the workplace. Centrica’s continuing development and innovation in supporting employees to achieve work-life balance is also producing clear financial results. The organisation estimates potential annual benefits of £7m in savings in relation to replacing staff and dealing with absence, evidencing Centrica’s belief that creating an inclusive working environment is good for business too.
Digital Marketing iCrossing’s approach to supporting its mothers is fresh and innovative. Over the past five years the company has actively set out to increase its female workforce, believing that a more diverse working demographic will benefit both its culture and its clients. iCrossing has a desire to attract and retain the best in a competitive industry. Nevertheless, it takes an individualised approach to each mum-to-be, acknowledging the fact that each new mum, and each pregnancy, is different. There is no ‘one size fits all’. In this spirit, when a woman has revealed that she is pregnant, she is offered a meeting with HR to discuss how she wants to manage her pregnancy in the workplace and also to check that she feels healthy enough to travel to and work in the office.
This year iCrossing has introduced a new initiative called ‘Together Time’, which aims to promote a culture of flexible working for everyone with caring duties, regardless of whether they work part- or full-time. Together Time allows staff to take two hours out of their day for caring duties without having to use their annual leave. Examples where this might apply include going to see their child’s nativity play, going to a school assembly in the middle of the day or taking an elderly relative to the doctor’s. By launching Together Time, iCrossing hopes to engender a culture where staff openly balance home with work life and celebrate family life at work. Staff know that they are trusted to get their work done and manage their own time, which enhances their loyalty to iCrossing as an employer. iCrossing also offers a mentoring scheme, iFamily, which matches new mums or mums-to-be with seasoned parents who can guide them through their re-entry into the workplace. At least half of the mentors are dads, which underlines to mums that, at iCrossing, dads are supported to take an equal role in parenting. iCrossing hopes that mums feel empowered and strengthened by this attitude. iCrossing is achieving its business aims of attracting and retaining women. In 2009, the workforce was 35% female; this figure has increased to 44% in 2014. The average length of service for mums on the iCrossing executive board is eight years and six months, proof that the company retains working mums at the top and supports them on their way up there..
West Dunbartonshire Council is fully committed to creating an environment that will enable both the organisation and its employees with caring responsibilities to thrive, through engagement, retention and recruitment of high quality, loyal people. The council’s ‘Be the Best’ strategy incorporates its family-friendly policy, which recognises that ‘getting the balance right for employees also enables the organisation to flourish’. The council has recently introduced a creative carer’s leave scheme, specifically aimed at those employees who need to balance caring responsibilities with work.
While other family-friendly policies facilitate paid time off at short notice, the carer’s leave scheme allows for an extended period of leave in order to care for a dependent. The scheme is unique in that it allows the employee to spread the cost of extended (unpaid) leave over a long period to minimise the financial impact of what is essentially a career break. This scheme really demonstrates the council’s commitment to retaining its employees with caring responsibilities, people whose only other option might be to leave employment.
There is no break in service and employer pension contributions and other employee benefits such as annual leave and promotion opportunities are unaffected. The council benefits by retaining skills, knowledge and experience and improving staff well-being, resulting in improved engagement, loyalty and retention.