Looking beyond employee welfare

Posted Wednesday 24th July 2019

Decent working conditions are a concept most of us take for granted in the twenty-first century. As an employee, you expect to be treated well, to be comfortable at work, and, though most of us expect to work hard, we want to feel valued while we are working. As an employer, you’ll most likely want to be known as more than ‘a place to work’ or a ‘name on a CV’ but also as a good employer.

Whether your business is a burgeoning start-up or an international powerhouse, as employers, we understand that we’re only as good as our people, and that our people are only going to stay if they are happy. And good working conditions are a good place to start.

But even the biggest businesses in the world can get it wrong. Last week saw planned walk-outs by staff at Amazon, prompted, at least in part, by their working conditions. Citing unrealistic targets and quotas, Amazon staff have been railing against their employer, which they believe has put their customers’ ‘want it now’ expectations far above the welfare of their own people.

All employers are legally obliged to provide certain protections regarding their employees’ welfare. Some of those obligations derive from specific regulations, such as the need to limit the number of hours an employee works each work, or providing sufficient rest breaks, whilst others stem from a general duty of care to your employees, which would include, for example, the provision of safe working conditions. However, to be a good employer, you need to go beyond the bare minimum. Therefore, most modern employers now extend their welfare framework far beyond this, proactively supporting, and in some cases, offering, facilities to enable better employee health and wellbeing.

Better awareness of the importance of a healthy lifestyle, and in particular, of good mental health, has played no small part in this, supported by the likes of the City Mental Health Alliance. Looking at businesses that do this best is a good place to start, for example, following in the footsteps of firms such as Skyscanner, which has won plaudits for the benefits and support for health and wellbeing which it offers to its employees, and GlaxoSmithKline, which benchmarks the wellbeing programmes it offers to its staff.

Finally, and on both a lighter and sunnier note, as the temperature in the UK rises over this summer, it’s worth remembering that there are basic things employers can do to make their people more comfortable. Perhaps you might consider relaxing the dress code (within reason) or offering flexible working hours so that commuters can avoid the most uncomfortable part of the day.

Perhaps rather oddly, there are no specific rules for employers regarding maximum working temperatures (although there is a specified minimum of 16°C), but a crucial part of both welfare and wellbeing is good morale. Do you need to hire the odd fan if air conditioning is not in place, or up to scratch? Or would it help to buy a box – or several – of ice lollies?! And what could be better for morale than a pop-up ice cream bar on a hot day.

This article is for reference purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Specific legal advice about your specific circumstances should always be sought separately before taking or deciding not to take any action.

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