The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed inequalities, both in and outside of the workplace. Employers need to create plans to tackle this, ensuring that their approaches do not disproportionately affect people, or undo progress made in these areas prior to the pandemic. Our latest Supporters’ Network Webinar focused specifically on the BAME community, key workers and the real living wage, and pay equity among leaders and their workforce. Key points from the discussion are explored below, and the full video recording is at the bottom of this page.
Be mindful of pay disparities.
The pandemic will have a detrimental impact on those most likely to enter low paid or insecure work – specifically young people, the BAME community, and women. This is particularly stark due to the number of low-paid roles in key industries which harbour the greatest health risks – including care workers, supermarket staff and cleaners. The response to the pandemic for many businesses from a financial perspective will be to drive down wages, but these measures would disproportionately impact these low-paid and at-risk workers. Donald Moore, Chair of Rowlinson’s Knitwear, spoke about what Rowlinson’s have done to tackle this pay inequity during the outbreak, whilst remaining financially strong. This included pay cuts across senior management teams to ensure the lower-paid remain financially secure – which also provided the ability to ‘top up’ the wages of furloughed workers. They also publish the difference in wage between the highest and lowest paid workers, communicating the differences in pay whilst ensuring this disparity is not too stark. All of this goes alongside ensuring all employees are paid the Real Living Wage as a minimum. Financial inequality not only negatively impacts a large proportion of the workforce, but drives forward other areas of inequality - and so needs to be addressed.
Ensure racial diversity in recruitment and retention.
A key area of inequality regards the representation of the BAME community in the workforce, which is a problem that pre-existed the pandemic. Businesses need to face this issue, and develop targeted methods of increasing their rates of diversity – for example through affirmative action methods in recruitment such as the Rooney Rule. Ensuring that the British Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Community are properly represented across workforces, both in standard and senior roles, is something that should be part of the recovery plan for all organisations. Increasing diversity strengthens the workforce, creating a team which greater reflects the community in which it serves and contributes a range of knowledge, outlook and opinions. The BAME community are also disproportionately affected by the pandemic - in rates of Covid-19, likelihood to be in low-paid or essential work, and the related impact of this on general physical and mental health. For any existing or prospective staff members from the BAME community, health and wellbeing support is especially important for securing retention, safety and happiness.
Support Health and Wellbeing.
Physical and mental health have been undoubtedly impacted by the pandemic and lockdown, creating particular emphasis for employers to address inequalities surrounding health and wellbeing. As we are entering the reopening phase, there will be a push for many to return to the workplace - but not everyone is going to be comfortable or able to do this. Creating tailored return plans will support those who cannot follow general guidance due to health, with reassurance regarding job security. For example, this could be offering flexibility in working hours to allow avoidance of peak transport times. For those in high-risk categories, this could mean allowing remote working to continue until a more appropriate time to re-enter the workplace.
Reopen with diversity.
Businesses have been creating short term approaches to problems of inequality, and this has caused the extent to which workforces aren’t supporting and reflecting the diversity of Greater Manchester. To Build Back Better, employers need to look at reducing inequalities across the whole range of Charter characteristics. Without these considerations, businesses will ‘build back’ without exploring the chance to be better – and without the added value that comes from inclusivity and diversity.
Sharon Amesu, Chair of Institute of Directors (IOD) Manchester and Professional Speaker on Inclusive Leadership, Culture, Diversity and Inclusion
Donald Moore, Chair at Rowlinson Knitwear, Members of the Charter
- Public Health England: Disparities in the risk and outcomes of COVID-19
- IoD Coronavirus Support Hub
- Living Wage Foundation Resources
- Rowlinson Knitwear’s commitment to ethical working
- Greater Manchester Local Enterprise Partnership (GMLEP): Build Back Better Campaign