What would a new Labour govt. mean for workplace inclusion?

From pay gap reporting to menopause and trust

The media and marketing industries have long struggled with diversity and inclusion…

A study conducted by The Agency Collective revealed that nearly half of UK marketing agencies are 100% white, leadership teams are still dominated by men, and only 7% of employees share they have a disability with their employer. But come 4 July and our government may look very different, and with it, workplace inclusion will take on a new scope.

Labour, currently leading in the polls, recently unveiled its new pledges to workplace inclusion. Their proposals include mandatory ethnicity and disability pay gap reporting and the implementation of Menopause Action Plans. These initiatives aim to create a fairer work environment by addressing long-standing systemic disparities.

What is mandatory pay gap reporting?

Pay gap reporting is all about transparency. It’s a tool for employers to measure their level of fairness in pay, reward and recognition. Currently, large companies are required to track and share their gender pay gaps. Labour wants to expand this requirement to include ethnicity and disability pay gaps. This broader dataset will help identify and tackle systemic barriers that prevent inclusion and equal opportunity. 

Right now only a handful of FTSE 100 organisations disclose their ethnicity pay gaps, with only 18 disclosing theirs by April 2023.

Similarly, half of UK employers don’t even disclose the number of staff with disabilities, meaning disability pay gap reporting isn’t even on the radar for many companies.

What is a Menopause Action Plan?

There has been growing recognition of how menopause affects women in the workplace. One in ten women between the ages of 45 and 55 will leave a job due to menopause symptoms. Although 86% of agencies surveyed by Campaign have menopause policies, they often fall short of making a real impact. Labour’s Menopause Action Plans aim to move beyond basic policies to concrete actions.

While they haven’t detailed the specific requirements, these plans will likely include training for leaders and people managers, updated policies, educational sessions, flexible working and considerations for uniforms and workplace temperatures.

What does this mean for the media and marketing industry?

The proposed pledges will help move the industry from talk to action. Mandatory reporting and action planning will help with holding companies to account for their DEI commitments. In a period where DEI may have taken a backseat for some organisations, these pledges will invigorate fresh energy to push forward with DEI efforts, providing clear data to set the strategic direction for improved DEI measures, helping to create workplaces that are accessible and inclusive for everyone.

But implementing these changes won’t be without its challenges. Conducting pay gap reporting and developing detailed action plans requires dedicated personnel, appropriate software, and often, external expertise.

Trust is another big hurdle — gathering accurate demographic data relies on employees feeling safe and confident that their information will be used responsibly. With ethnicity pay gap reporting, there’s the additional challenge of categorisation. Ethnicity is inherently multifaceted, and the broad categories can obscure the specific disparities faced by different communities. For example, within the ‘Asian/Asian British’ category there are significant cultural and socio-economic differences between Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Chinese communities.

Aggregating these distinct groups under a single category could limit the amount of meaningful insight that can be gathered from the data. While there are valid challenges to embedding this work, it’s no question that this is the natural next step in workplace equity and inclusion.

It will be up to organisations to leverage cross-industry insights and learn from those that have already taken these steps boldly to meet these challenges head on.

Will this change things for the better?

In short, to an extent. Mandatory reporting is a great first step, but it’s not the end-goal. Transparency in pay gaps highlights disparities, but it doesn’t automatically resolve them. We only need to look at this year’s Goldman Sach’s gender pay gap, its highest in six years, to know that merely reporting on a pay gap doesn’t necessarily lead to long term sustainable change.

Similarly, Labour’s proposals around Menopause Action Plans are sufficiently vague that it will likely be hard to track beyond showing a strategy, which may not result in long-term change.

Whether things change for the better is up to the commitment of the organisation. This can be seen as a tick-box compliance measure, another regulatory requirement that is left in the hands of HR. But it could also be the opportunity to drive meaningful change and create fresh commitments and targeted initiatives that are rooted in data and reflect employee needs.

Now is the perfect time for companies to prepare. Start by auditing existing DEI practices to identify gaps in data collection, privacy, resources, and expertise. Establish baseline data where available and develop methods for enhanced data collection. Effective communication and education will engage staff and leaders, fostering the much-needed trusted environment ahead of data collection. Embed these efforts into strategic planning for 2025, allocating sufficient budget for DEI initiatives.

Finally, draft detailed action plans based on audit findings and baseline data, and monitor progress. This proactive approach will position companies to confidently welcome the fresh wave of new inclusion standards.

Labour’s proposals are a nudge in the right direction. It’s up to the industry to turn them into action.

Featured image: Kampus Production / Pexels

Jinan Younis, writer, storyteller, campaigner

Jinan Younis is a DE&I Practitioner. Formerly the Head of the diversity, equity, and inclusion practice at strategy firm Purpose Union, she supports companies in navigating the complexity of DEI challenges. Jinan has contributed to the books I Call Myself a Feminist and Growing Up with gal-dem. She is the past winner of the Christine Jackson Young Persons Award.

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