Last month, one issue dominated conversations, press coverage, and hearts and minds across the UK: the European Union (EU) referendum.
Since the Leave result was announced on 24 June, uncertainty and doubt have prevailed. At the time of writing, this shows no sign of abating as speculation continues about the impact of the decision on the economy, housing, immigration and employment, to name but a few.
A particular area of concern has been what the decision to leave the EU will mean for employment law.
Immigration, global mobility and employee residency issues aside, one question I’ve heard frequently from employers since the referendum result is whether Brexit could potentially impact equality and diversity legislation.
Fostering an inclusive workplace culture is now firmly on employers’ agendas, with organisations increasingly recognising the importance of demonstrating their commitment to inclusivity, equality and diversity. Many are now looking at providing support more broadly than ever to reflect individuals’ changing needs. Earlier this year, for example, it was reported that Lloyds Banking Group is to provide access to private gender reassignment surgery through its healthcare plan in order to demonstrate support for transgender employees.
Ultimately, fostering an inclusive workplace culture can have numerous advantages for organisations.
This may be why, while nothing is certain, even where legislation does have its basis in EU law, many lawyers I’ve spoken to do not believe it is likely that the UK government (in whatever form this ultimately takes) will significantly scale back minimum requirements in such areas. And even if it does, where such policies and provision are a point of difference between employers, it is unlikely this will change at this level in many organisations.
A supportive workplace culture will also ensure that staff receive the practical and emotional assistance and guidance they need should the worst happen or during times of crisis. While work is likely to be the last thing on an employee’s mind following a bereavement, for example, the workplace can be a valuable source of support.
Similarly, employers are also ideally placed to provide access to support should an employee or family member be diagnosed with cancer, particularly if the disease has been identified through a workplace screening benefit.
Returning to the issue of inclusivity and diversity, this is one of the topics that will be discussed at this year’s Employee Benefits Live, which will take place at Olympia National on 11 and 12 October. For the first time, this year’s event will feature a conference stream dedicated to workplace equality and diversity, covering issues such as gender pay reporting and shared parental leave. In addition, Steve Varley, UK chairman and managing partner at EY, will deliver the opening keynote address on the second day on how diversity can breed success within a business. Find out more at www.employeebenefitslive.co.uk
I hope to see many of you there.