Equal treatment at work

June 01, 1994


Leading employers gathered at Midland Bank headquarters on April 12 for the launch of the Family-Friendly Employment Agenda, produced by the UN International Year of the Family (UK). The agenda sets out 36 steps towards introducing family-friendly policies which make good business sense. Speaking at the launch, Howard Davies, Director General of the CBI, warned that businesses will not achieve their full potential unless family-friendly working practices are introduced. Among the benefits he cited are reduced staff turnover, a committed and skilled workforce and reduced overheads. (See Best Practice below for full details.) Contact UN International Year of the Family on 071 637 2755


The number of top women managers in Britain has shown a slight decrease on last year, a recent report published by the Institute of Management on May 3 shows. The National Management Salary Survey, covering 339 of Britain’s leading employers, shows that the number of female managers and directors in the UK’s largest organisations now stands at 9.5%, compared to 10.2% last year – the first time in 21 years that the figure has fallen. The percentage of women directors stands at 2.8%. Contact Peter Stevens, Remuneration Economics, on 081 549 8726


Women’s employment opportunities in Britain will increase over the decade, according to a survey by the Equal Opportunities Commission. Labour Market Structures & Prospects for Women says that women will make up nearly half of the labour force by the year 2000, but points out that many of the 500,000 new jobs will be in low-paid, low-status jobs. It predicts that 38% of managers and administrators will be women, along with 41% of professionals. The survey forecasts little growth in the market for women from minority ethnic communities unless there are changes in anti-discrimination policies. Contact Communications Unit, EOC, on 071 287 3953


April 28 saw Britain’s first Take our Daughters to Work Day. Its aim was to provide girls between the ages of 11 and 15 with an opportunity to observe the working environment. Sponsored by The Office for Public Management, BUPA, the Equal Opportunities Commission and the BBC, it was modelled on a US initiative, which involved nearly one million girls last year. US research has shown that girls between the ages of 11 and 15 experience a loss of self-esteem and confidence, often choosing subjects at school which narrow their career opportunities in later life. Parents took their daughters to work at Sainsbury’s, BP, BBC, Glaxo, Inmarsat and Goldman Sachs, among others. Contact Carol Mason, Munro & Forster, on 071 439 7177


Fair Play for Women – Regional Partnerships for Equality was launched on April 25 by the employment secretary, David Hunt MP, and Equal Opportunities Commission Chairwoman, Kamlesh Bahl. Aimed at increasing opportunities for women in the workplace, it is modelled on a successful pilot project created three years ago in Wales. Each region will establish a network of decision-makers, with participation from Opportunity 2000, TECs, local authorities and major local employers, to draw up a plan for their areas. Contact Employment Department on 071 273 6969


The Government’s £45 million scheme to provide out-of-school and holiday childcare went nationwide in April, with all 75 TECs in England able to participate. They will work in partnership with employers, schools, parents, local authorities and voluntary organisations to deliver the scheme, which aims to create 50,000 places over three years. In the year to March 1994, 40 TECs participated, creating 4,300 places. Contact Employment Department on 071 273 6969


The cost to employers of offering paternity leave is minimal, according to a survey published in May. Over 350 businesses employing 3 million people were surveyed, two-thirds of which offer paternity leave. During the last year, just 5,899 people took advantage of their leave entitlement. Based on five days leave, this averages out at 23 minutes per employee per year. The report also found that three quarters of employers offering leave make it contractual, the remainder discretionary. The most common reason stated for having paternity leave policies is equal opportunities, while factors cited against included cost and adequate holiday entitlement. Contact Gary Bowker, Equal Opportunities Review, on 071 354 5858


The recently-published advisory booklet for companies, Getting on: The Benefits of an Older Workforce, highlights the potential of older employees. It focuses on the policies of WH Smith, Unigate, B&Q, Nationwide Building Society, Texaco, NatWest and Sainsbury’s, whose measures include the dropping of age bars from advertisements, selection on ability, the welcoming of older applicants, the introduction of flexible working and investment in training. Contact Employment Department on 071 273 6969


LEntA’s fourth Positive Action Programme for employees from minority ethnic communities began in May. Abbey National, Barclays Bank, Christian Salvesen, Midland Bank, London Electricity, the Post Office, Royal Bank of Scotland and several TECs are among those which have taken part in the scheme, which is aims to reduce the under-representation of such employees at management level. Elements of the scheme include workshops on career development and mentors. Contact Graham Shaw, LEntA, on 071 236 4423


Women now make up 46% of the total workforce but only 10% at manager and director levels. The details of the Institute of Management survey make interesting reading. The good news is that twenty years ago the proportion of women managers was less than 2%, so at least things are getting better. The bad news is that today’s 10% is concentrated in areas like personnel and marketing, with very low figures in R&D, manufacturing and production. Hopefully ‘Take our Daughters to Work Day’ will help to widen the horizons of the next generation.

But that alone will not change much, certainly in the short term, unless employers offer equal opportunity in employment to new jobs and career development and promotion thereafter. Several of the schemes reported above make that more possible and the figures for paternity leave provide a useful reminder that men have childcare responsibilities too. But many companies are not even at the starting point – knowing what the current statistics on employees from the various groups at the various grades – still less in a position to monitor progress towards pre-set objectives.

Corporate Citizenship Briefing, issue no: 16 – June, 1994