Earlier this year, the government introduced the 2023 Spring Budget (also referred to as the ‘Back to Work Budget’), with the aim of helping the UK’s ageing population, and those in long term sickness back into employment.
● In the UK, there are over 10.4 million people (17.8%) of people with disabilities.
● Additionally, over 3.5 million people aged 50-64 are classified as ‘economically inactive’ (5% of the population).
● A report by the Women’s Budget Group revealed that childcare issues prevent an estimated 1.7 million women from taking on more hours of paid work.
The budget strives to deliver specific support to these groups of people, with the intention of removing barriers they face at any stage in their career. Outlined by the Department for Work and Pensions, the budget will see a £3.5 billion investment over five years that will, “boost workforce participation and grow the economy.” This investment includes:
● £2 billion investment in support for disabled people and people with long-term health conditions.
● £900 million investment in support for parents on Universal Credit.
● £70 million investment in support for over-50s.
● £485 million investment in support for unemployed people and people who are on Universal Credit and working fewer than full time hours.
These measures are a step towards reducing challenges in the labour market that are impacting the UK’s economic prospects, and will also improve overall living standards. For example, during COVID-19, a wide range of industries experienced huge skills gaps due to mass retirement. But economic uncertainty and the rising cost of living has led to 2 million pensioners living in poverty.
Whilst the government is launching these measures to introduce a more diverse and skilled workforce, it is critical that organisations take responsibility and light the way to building an accessible, diverse and inclusive culture.
After all, just because a company hires people with diverse backgrounds it doesn’t necessarily mean that the workplace itself is inclusive. There needs to be a culture shift, and Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) policies must be driven from the top down.
This is further reinforced by Robin J. Ely and David A. Thomas in Harvard Business Review,
“Just increasing the number of people from underrepresented groups is not meaningful if those employees do not feel valued and respected.
Being genuinely valued and respected involves more than just feeling included. It involves having the power to help set the agenda, influence what—and how—work is done, have one’s needs and interests taken into account, and have one’s contributions recognized and rewarded with further opportunities to contribute and advance.”
When it comes to EDI policies, HR plays a critical role in ensuring EDI doesn’t become a tick box exercise that’s left on the shelf, but an ongoing exercise. HR must also be involved in developing and implementing EDI policies, ensuring that they align with the organisation's values and goals.
HR software plays a key role in providing the employee data and reporting required to support EDI policies. This can support in monitoring the effectiveness of these policies and make changes as necessary to promote equality, diversity, and inclusion.
In doing this, they’ll be driving an inclusive culture where everyone feels safe, supported and equal.
Every company tracks their people, payroll and recruitment processes - whether it’s via spreadsheets or across different platforms or softwares. And these hold a wealth of data that can offer insight into areas of EDI that are succeeding and need improving, which can then get put in place before the launch of the Back to Work Budget.
The Back To Work Budget will place even more pressure in ensuring digital accessibility for businesses across the UK. From ensuring all digital content is in line with The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, to offering tailored training to people who may not have the necessary skills or experience with tech, ensuring digital literacy and accessibility is included in EDI will help employers stay on the front foot.
As the government pushes for parents, over 50s and people with disabilities to join the workforce, HR should ensure their recruitment and retention processes incorporate EDI principles in order to build an inclusive environment. By offering flexible and hybrid working, becoming disability confident and offering benefits that suit people of all ages, they can encourage underrepresented groups to apply for open positions.
HR can ensure that the performance management process is equitable and unbiased. They can provide guidance to managers on how to evaluate performance fairly and consistently, and they can also track the impact of EDI policies on employee performance and retention.
As the Back To Work budget strives to decrease unemployment, improve overall living standards and close a magnitude of skills gaps, it offers businesses an opportunity to broaden their talent pool.
But in order to benefit from a diverse workforce, employers must bring EDI policies from the top down, and ensure HR is a driving force behind this.
When businesses strive to create a culture of diversity and inclusion, they attract and retain talent, promote employee wellbeing and create a positive brand image, all while promoting equality, and reducing discrimination.
Speak to Payescape today and find out how we can support your HR needs.
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