But it’s not fair!
“It’s not fair!” How many times have we heard our children or grandchildren utter those words? It’s not fair that they have to go to bed, it’s not fair that they can’t watch Peppa Pig, it’s not fair that they have to have a bath…ah the hardships of being a child (can you tell I have a toddler?!). As we grow older, we start to realise those “inequalities” of childhood were not quite as unfair as we deemed and suddenly, we really do observe the injustices and unfairness of the world. Fairness, inclusion and Respect (FIR) has become an industry-wide initiative within the construction industry in the hope of making it a supportive place to be for all. This week’s Toolbox Talk discusses the meaning of Fairness, inclusion and respect, the part the Equality Act plays, the benefits of integrating FIR in the workplace and how you can go about this.
Same but Different
“But you get to stay up late” shrieks the lively five-year-old wanted to be exactly the same as his mummy and Daddy. That desire for fairness and to be the same is something that perhaps is genetically programmed even at a young age (though being the same as Mum and Dad is probably a cringeworthy thought when that five-year-old becomes a teen!) The Equality Act (2010) is all about treating people the same in terms of allowing equality opportunities but does this really mean we all want to be thought of in exactly the same way; we are, after all, all different?! Okay, so we want to be treated fairly in terms of without bias but actually we need our employers to appreciate and understand our differences so that we can perform at our best. We also must understand the differences between us and our colleagues in order to get along and make the workplace a harmonious place to be. So, if there’s one thing you take from this blog, make a point this week to get to know that Tim or was it Tom, that works opposite you each day but you’ve yet to really have a conversation with. This brings me on to Inclusion. Getting to know Tim/Tom ensures everyone feels valued as part of a team and no one is left out. We must appreciate the diversity, recognising that people will have different work styles and skills but we need to value each and every one no matter what their gender/age/role/experience/level. It is important to have that variety of beliefs but still be part of a team as this diversity in thinking will bring about innovation and effective solutions to drive a business forward. Enriching your business with diversity supports each other’s weaknesses and challenges opinions; it is the best ingredient to bring about improvement and change through the fresh ideas generated. Finally, the third aspect of the FIR trio, respect. Yes, we are inclusive as a business of different people, their thoughts, backgrounds etc but we also must be respectful of this diversity. We should consider how we would want someone close to you (family/friends) to be treated and ensure this is the respect we demonstrate in the workplace. In a respectful workplace people will thrive and feel comfortable to share opinions and suggestions (always be mindful that your opinions do not cause offence).
You’re my favourite
To coin a turn of phrase that good old Sir Bruce used frequently on Strictly ‘you’re my favourite’; do we still observe favouritism in the workplace? How mad would you go if you found out little Jimmy’s teacher was showing favouritism to certain children in the class?! If we wouldn’t let it happen at school, why should we let it happen when we move in to the work place? The Equality Act (2010) came about to address such inequalities and protects the rights of all through a fair and equal society. The Act protects you against unlawful treatment according to your age/gender/race/religion/marital status/disability/paternal or maternal status/sexual orientation (these are known as protected characteristics). It protects you against harassment which violates your dignity or creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading or humiliating situation. The Act guards you against victimisation when you are treated less favourably to others. It also allows flexible working hours to be requested (not only for those that are carers or a parent) as long as you have been in 26 weeks of continuous employment. From the introduction of the Equality Act employers must:
-Follow employment law (not discriminating against personal characteristics)
-Protect staff from harassment or victimisation
-Making reasonable adjustments to allow people to work
-Encouraging the team to get along
Employees duties include:
-Informing management of the health, safety and wellbeing concerns for you and those around you
-Do not discriminate/bully/harass/victimise
-Declare any disability
‘Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to’
Implementing the principles of FIR will make your company a more attractive place to work. At present, the construction industry is struggling to attract, recruit and retain staff since it is considered an unappealing place to work. The average construction worker tends to be male, white, in his 40s (with an intention to retire in his 50s) and currently only around 8000 people are completing apprenticeships per year so where are we getting our new workforce from? With a gap of around 224,000 construction workers we need to encourage more workers to enter the industry through creating appealing propositions. The benefits of a FIR workplace include:
-A collaborative workplace where everyone is valued and will work better together
-A safer environment. Accidents are less likely to happen when you value the safety of your colleagues and are mindful of one another’s situations.
-Enhanced financial performance
– Improved reputation
-Facilitating innovation- A diverse range of people and thoughts promote innovation
-Managers value and invest in you with the correct tools and training
-Feel more secure in your state of mind and therefore will work calmly, logically and creatively
-If you enjoy working improves your wellbeing and less likely to be off sick
-When feeling valued you feel more comfortable to speak up and raise concerns which ultimately improve the business
Richard Branson puts it well when he states ‘train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to’.
Never have the Monday Blues again
In order to create a culture of FIR there are many things your company can do that will ensure everyone feels valued, included, respected, safe and supported. Consider how you could integrate some of these elements within your company and ensure you have a healthy and happy workplace:
-Encourage professional behaviours that do not cause offence
-Make people feel valued to enable them to perform at their best
-Ensure you have an equality, diversity and inclusion strategy/policy
-Procedures in place for making a complaint
-Training and development
-Communication e.g. newsletter
-Celebrate good work
-Managers/supervisors need to strike a balance of being friendly enough to approach but formal enough to maintain discipline and focus