Progressive HR policies for forward-thinking employers

Donna Gibb examines the new emphasis on mental, financial and women’s health considerations in the workplace and the enlightened policies that can support them

As we get to grips with the long-term effects of Covid in the modern workplace, it’s time to get ahead of the curve with the development and implementation of progressive HR policies. 

Almost two years on, the pandemic is still triggering subtle changes to organisational policy and employers are developing a more enlightened outlook. In the wake of the furlough scheme and in light of working from home policy guidance, HR teams are revisiting their current practices and ensuring they’re fit for the future in our new world of work.

Let’s examine three examples of workplace policies that forward-thinking organisations are already adopting, with a view to improving employee engagement, retention and job performance.

Miscarriage

Health and wellbeing is on most employers’ radars, and it’s clear that miscarriage has an effect on women’s physical and mental health. Research from Imperial College estimates that nearly a third of women suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) a month on from miscarriage, and according to charity Tommy’s, one in four women will experience at least one miscarriage in their lives. These startling statistics are enough to highlight the need among employers to address the matter.

Channel 4 set a precedent with the launch of a dedicated pregnancy loss policy which included two weeks’ fully paid leave; paid leave for medical appointments; flexible working; and an array of other resources and support. Many organisations have also adopted policies surrounding the menopause – this is another area recognised for increased focus within the workplace.

Financial wellbeing

As well as physical health and mental health, progressive employers are now including policies on financial health too. UK unemployment is higher than before the pandemic, and some analysts warn that a cost-of-living crisis is looming. It’s clear that many employees’ finances have been adversely affected, but there are very few policies in place to protect their financial wellbeing. Large businesses are being urged to put a financial wellbeing policy in place, which should include:

  • Signposting to financial wellbeing advice, such as the resources available from the Money and Pensions Service

  • Targeted financial education support at key moments in working lives, for example ahead of maternity leave

  • Revising benefits packages to include finance-friendly initiatives, like giving employees the option to choose how often they are paid

  • Implementing flexible working policies so that employees with caring responsibilities can balance working enough hours to comfortably pay their bills

  • Giving people security over their hours and helping them to progress into higher-paid roles

  • Committing, where possible, to paying all employees at least the Real Living Wage.

Post-pandemic, many businesses may not be able to award pay rises but other measures in the list that involve little or no cost, could prove very helpful.

Burnout policy

While the importance of good mental health is now generally recognised, the pandemic is thought to have had a serious negative impact on many employees’ wellbeing.

Some employers have implemented a number of measures to support their staff during this difficult climate and some have made landmark decisions aimed at helping staff recover from the pressures of Covid-19.

Many large UK retailers have announced extra time off for staff over Christmas, in recognition of their hard work and there’s hope that these precedent-setting measures may soon become the norm.

Research from Deloitte suggests that mental health costs UK employers up to £45bn annually,* and that for every £1 an employer spends on mental health interventions, they get £5 back in reduced absence, presenteeism and turnover: this provides a powerful incentive for creating policies that support employee wellbeing. 

The increased recognition of employee wellbeing, the review of existing policies and introduction of new ones, clearly bring all-round benefits, and are also a focus for applicants in these times of heightened demand for talent. Seeking expert help in developing, implementing, and embedding policy is vital to ensure their future success.  

Donna Gibb is head of client services at WorkNest HR