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Caroline Waters: building better business

Thursday 13 August 2015

Caroline Waters of the EHRC illustrates how healthy engagement with the workforce can lead to increased productivity, and that includes tackling discrimination to build better business.


Caroline Waters

Caroline is Deputy Chair for the Equality and Human Rights Commission, and is also one of the Commissioners.

Caroline Waters

Advice on building better businesses is all about spending smarter, managing quality, selling solutions, refreshing strategy, speaking to customers, measures, and data. There's nothing wrong with this, leaders strive for increased productivity, cost effectiveness and performance as well as innovation and customer satisfaction. That's how business works.

People get a mention but usually in terms of productivity. Demanding longer hours and tighter deadlines will not yield the sustained improvement that leads to growth and profitability. Instead a different mindset is needed.

People deliver all the things that businesses need. And there is a very simple equation. The happier and more supported people feel the better they work and the better businesses perform. No one questions that businesses have to become more pro-active when it comes to meeting external demands. We simply have to apply the same thinking to people and the growing demands life places upon them. That's why a commitment to fairness, inclusion and equality makes perfect business sense.

At the Equality and Human Rights Commission we believe that the way to build sustainably successful businesses is to drive engagement and productivity by embracing the potential of an increasingly diverse workforce. What does that involve? Tackling discrimination is a good start. Not just the obvious forms of discrimination but those that we often aren't aware of because things have always been that way. For example, the most effective businesses recruit and promote on the basis of skill and merit searching out the best available talent not just recruiting those whose 'faces fit'. Convenience may be easy and it avoids those potentially difficult people; people managing a disability or chronic illness, women who might have or want children, those with caring responsibilities or those wanting to work flexibly for example. Convenient isn't best however.

Great businesses understand that creating a working environment that manages the everyday complexities of life and the challenges most people face makes business sense. According to the Commissions' research 84% of businesses agree; believing that supporting pregnant workers and those on maternity leave is in the interests of their organisation. Yet around 54,000 mothers may be forced out of their jobs each year because they are pregnant or take maternity leave. A huge waste of talent that damages families and exposes business to avoidable risks.

Employers usually want to do the right thing, for their people and their business, but translating legal obligations into policies and a culture that ensures fairness can feel difficult. The key is being able to talk about what's needed openly, knowledgably and early. Our research highlights the need for advice and information for employers and employees so everyone understands their rights and responsibilities. Our #worksforme guides provide quick to read answers about the challenges employers dealing with pregnancy, maternity leave or return to work face.

Acas' guidance is there to help employers and employees understand employment law; prevent discrimination, support equality and have the informed conversations that include people and build successful businesses. Our research shows that employers want to get this right; Acas' guidance helps them do just that. 

Read other blogs

Sarah Veale, TUC: Diversity guidance and support

Steve Williams: The four principles of equality in workplaces

Audrey Williams: Help is at hand for small business owners to manage equality and diversity issues in the workplace

1 Comment

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  • Posted by Ania  |  17 August 2015, 10:04AM

    You mentioned very important and not easy subject. I have many friends, who had serious problems finding a job having little children. Everything during the recruitment process was going very well untill the awkward question about family showed up. And of course - it shouldn't have been asked, but it was. And it is really very hard not to answer this question. I am just very glad that at my company this thing is not a problem. Owners of the company understand the value of employee and don't treat him/her like a robot. Thanks for good piece of reading.