No Time for Smugness
We saw this week that ultimately – and after what some would see as a few too many second chances – HR policies catch up with even the most highly valued talent in an organisation. I’ve been there a couple of times in my career so I have every sympathy with the BBC who would have been worried (and probably still are) about killing the goose that lays golden eggs. However, in my experience, the very people who seem to travel in the wake of the “big personality” can step up to deliver far beyond what you expected of them when they are given a chance to emerge from behind the shadow. As a Top Gear fan, I hope so!
But this blog isn’t about Jeremy Clarkson (there, I mentioned him). It occurred to me that some of us in HR might be feeling a bit smug about no-one being “above the law” on our watch. But I got to thinking about this. This is no time for smugness.
Not while people are working for organisations that are not paying the Minimum Wage, never mind the Living Wage. Just to repeat: organisations that are not paying the legal Minimum Wage. In 2015. 48 companies were “named and shamed” just this week . I was fascinated/appalled to see some High Street names listed – Foot Locker and Toni & Guy amongst them. Presumably these reasonably-sized organisations employ an HR person or two?
Not while the gender pay gap is so widely accepted (and reported) but still such a gulf – between 15 and 20% depending on whose analysis you wish to follow. The bottom line is that, according to the ONS, on average in the UK for every £1 a man earns, a woman earns 82p.
Not while women returning after maternity leave are still routinely and openly discriminated against. A report on this subject by the Fawcett Society last year (reported here) made for depressing reading, showing that one in ten low paid (below £7.44 per hour) women are actually demoted on their return to work.
Not while we have seen people trying to enforce their fundamental employment rights denied access to justice by the fees regime for Employment Tribunals (see various blogs here). This might seem a funny one for me, as an HR professional, to argue with as in many respects it makes my life easier. It feels like the pendulum has swung in my favour on those debatable HR decisions we all have to make from time to time. But nothing I have seen or read has eased my fear that whilst I genuinely believe I work for a decent employer who wants to do the right thing – not just by the letter of the law but also by its own values – many, many people are not so fortunate.
Not while young people are still finding it so hard to establish careers for themselves, despite the recent fall in the unemployment figures, and commentators continue to use the horrible phrase “the lost generation“.
You get the idea.
At the risk of getting “a bit political” (as Ben Elton would once have said), in the early days of the Coalition government, a lot was made of the “red tape” that was “getting in the way of business” in the UK. After the initial sound and fury, things seemed to die down. It was interesting to see that as they started to ponder what they could reasonably cut, they kept turning up dead ends. With the notable exception of Tribunal fees and slight tinkering with other bits of legislation, not that much has changed for me as an operational HR person in the last few years (which is something to be relatively pleased about I guess!).
Thankfully it also continues to be gross misconduct to punch a colleague (subject of course to a proper investigation and procedure..!) – whoever you are. And surely that’s how it should be? I may be accused of naive optimism, but shouldn’t the same standards should apply to us all, regardless of who we are and what we do? Well, this is no time to feel smug that this is even remotely the case…