We want to share some tips for implementing workplace inclusivity with regards to attendance, absence and leave policies, to help you ensure that everyone in your organisation feels welcomed, safe, included and encouraged.
This isn’t a box-ticking exercise, it’s about understanding your employees’ individual needs, backgrounds and identities to make sure that no one, ever, feels like they don’t belong or are being treated differently to their peers.
What is inclusivity?
Inclusivity and the commitment to it is about providing equity for all individuals, regardless of backgrounds, preferences or experiences. It feeds into, and should be reflective of, your company’s culture, brand and values, and your commitment to respecting, supporting and enabling everyone in your organisation.
The law varies from country to country, but in the UK the Equality Act 2010 legally protects people from discrimination in the workplace and wider society. There are nine protected characteristics: age, disability, gender reassignment, sex and sexual orientation, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, marriage and civil partnership.
No matter how someone relates to these characteristics they should feel supported, included, and be given the same opportunities in the workplace as anyone else. Businesses should ensure they have considered this from their brand and values perspective, and through the entire lifecycle of people within a company. For example: attracting talent, the selection process, job descriptions, policies and procedures for working in the business.
Why is inclusivity in the workplace important?
Inclusivity is important in the workplace because it supports and respects the needs of individuals so that they may feel encouraged, valued and empowered to thrive in their role.
There is no one-size-fits-all model to achieving inclusivity in the workplace, or any quick fixes, but if a company is prioritising inclusivity it can be nurtured and maintained, and forms part of a company’s overall culture.
It is more than simply attracting and hiring a diverse workforce, too. Once hired, employees need to feel welcome, included and able to work to the best of their ability in a respectful and safe environment. For example, an employee who has a physical disability may need reasonable adjustments to be made, a Muslim employee may require flexibility in their working hours during Ramadan, and a parent may be called away from work to pick up their sick child from school without much warning.
Failure from an organisation to consider flexibility and understanding in circumstances like these may cause employees to feel their needs are not being supported. It may hinder their work and eventually lead them to look elsewhere for a new role.
How to create inclusive attendance policies
There are many standard attendance and leave policies that an organisation should define and have in place for several key reasons, including:
- Employees know how and when they can take different types of leave
- What happens in emergency situations
- What happens if someone is ill and cannot attend work
- What policies are in place to handle any issues regarding bullying, harassment, and if an employee has a grievance about the way they are treated
As with all company policies, it is important to ensure that all of your attendance and leave policies are current and that the language used within them is inclusive.
It is therefore good practice to review the employee policies you have in place and consider updating them as necessary.
When it comes to employees requesting leave and managers approving it, make sure there are clear guidelines around how much notice an employee needs to give and the maximum number of people who can be off from any one team or department.
One of the best approaches is to use a first come, first served basis – so it is up to the employee to book their leave in plenty of time and managers or HR do not have to choose who can or who can’t take leave if there are multiple people trying to book holiday around the same time.
In the UK, the festive period in December is usually a popular time for booking holiday, but there are other religious and cultural events and celebrations that employees may wish to book leave around, such as Eid, Ramadan, Passover, Easter and Diwali, so it is worth knowing when each of these occur so companies can resource plan effectively during these times. The same goes for school holidays, as these will be a popular time for parents and carers of children to take more time off work.
Other inclusivity policies to have in place
There are a number of policies that organisations should have in place surrounding inclusivity, confidentiality and protection of employees. These include but are not limited to:
- Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Policy
- Anti-bullying and Anti-harassment Policy
- Health and Safety Policy
- Modern Day Slavery Statement or Policy (a Modern Day Slavery Policy is only applicable to organisations of certain sizes, but smaller organisations can choose to have a statement in place)
- Social Media Policy
- Whistleblowing (Public Interest Disclosure) Policy
- Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures
- Emergency Time Off for Dependants Policy
- Flexible Working Policy
All of the above are important to have in place as a way to protect both the employee and the employer. Clearly stating what these policies entail to employees, and acting according to the procedures they explain, helps everyone to know where they stand and what rights they have.
Training your company’s senior management team and your people managers is a great place to start, so that all company policies are understood and adhered to as needed. Ensuring that senior management team and HR have this knowledge is essential, so that they can lead by example and identify and handle any issues appropriately.
Developing an inclusive workplace does not happen overnight – it is something that can be built upon over time. Employees that feel supported and empowered will be happier and more productive than those that don’t – and as the war for talent remains a challenge for HR, it’s essential that businesses get this right.
Resources to help
Includability – offering employers resources and expert help to work towards better inclusivity
The Good Recruitment Collective – bringing organisations together under one best practice initiative to help benchmark organisations’ recruitment processes
Disability Confident – A UK government campaign aimed at helping employers recruit and retain people, and challenging attitudes and increasing understanding of disability
Inclusive Employers – a membership organisation offering consultancy, thought leadership and training for employers looking to build inclusive workplaces