Categories
Careers Flexible Working Future of work

Working From Home: Are Employers Biased About It?

The term Working From Home or WFH, has been used a lot in post-lockdown times. Maybe too much? What I mean is; when a phrase or title is used so often, we can forget it’s literal core meaning.

Because of that, Working From Home has been a talking point as of late. And it is always referred to as a form of flexible working, which it is. But how flexible is it really?

Honestly, there are variables which mean that this question has a number of different answers and there inlies the problem. There is no solid answer to that question and yet there seems to be bias about the flexibility and freedom Working From Home offers.

What is the bias against people who Work From Home?

This all started when I saw a post on LinkedIn. A woman was calling out her husband’s employer for questioning why he needed a shift change to perform parenting duties. When his wife Works From Home…

This alone shocked me. But what shocked me more was the number of people commenting who related to this story. Which led me to question if there was a bias from employers about employees who Work From Home. I set a poll asking this question on LinkedIn and Facebook and 80 people responded.

Only 2.5% said they believed there was no bias against people Working From Home and that businesses understood the limitations. 42.5% said they felt some businesses understand and others don’t. While 55% said that they felt employers have the bias that Working From Home offers far more freedom and flexibility than it really does.

To add to this I saw even more shocking stories in the comment section of what this stereotype has done to people, their living situation and their families, some of them are extreme.

But what surprised me the most is how brazen employers are when questioning the working arrangement of other people who live in their employee’s household.

I fail to see how anyone cannot appreciate how inappropriate and unprofessional that is. If an employee is asking for any kind of leave or change in shift, it is no business of the employer to question why a person outside of their employ cannot perform the task needed.

What flexibility does Working From Home actually offer?

As I said before, it depends on the individual employer how flexible their form of Working From Home is. And the range of that is as long as it is short.

However, if we take it for it’s core definition, this way of working only refers to one thing; the location of where someone does their work.

So in theory, Working From Home in terms of flexibility only really impacts one aspect of someone’s working day. And that is the need to commute into work. This is the only solid difference between an employee who works in an office and one who Works From Home. Every other aspect is completely subjective.

Yet some businesses seem to think that employees who Work From Home have all the free time in the world. I have seen first hand this is not the case.

I know of people who WFH, whose shift patterns including; start time, break times and shift end are just as strictly regimented and monitored as if they were in an office.

Then, I know of people who used to commute to the office and are now casually expected to use the time they used commuting as extra time to spend working.

WFH, Parenting Roles and Unconscious Bias

A point was made by one of the commenters on the poll, questioning whether (when it comes to parents) employers’ attitudes differ depending on which parent is the one Working From Home.

This comment got a fair few likes. Then when I looked further, I realised the majority of people who voted were women and everyone who shared a personal story on the subject was female.

This does beg the question of whether this is a bias on WFH or more unconscious (or perhaps even conscious) bias against women in the workplace who WFH?

This could be yet another insight into the ongoing existence of gender bias and inequality in the workplace. With a bias against mothers Working From Home adding yet another layer to this.

Do I think that this is in actual fact the case? I don’t see the two as mutually exclusive. I believe there are employers who still have gender equality issues and I believe there are employers who have an unfair bias about people who Work From Home. Some of these will overlap and become mixed with one another, but both need addressing.

FTDAWWFH (Free To Do Anything While Working From Home)

Clearly in extremes, this is what some believe Working From Home actually means. There needs to be a serious crash course on what WFH actually is.

Lesson 1 for businesses is reminding them what the ‘W’ stands for. Just because the location of where it is being conducted happens to be home, that doesn’t give the employees the magical ability to be able to take care of all domestic responsibilities while they are at work.

That insinuates that the work they do is less important or easier because they happen to be doing it at home, which clearly isn’t the case. Lesson 2 should be on further flexibility.

It’s clear from our data that some businesses believe WFH is all the flexibility anyone needs. First and foremost, if someone has 8-10 hours worth of work to do in a day, where are they supposed to find time to:

  • Clean the house
  • Do the laundry
  • Pick kids up from school
  • Look after children at home
  • Drop kids off at football, dance, karate etc.
  • Cook meals
  • Look after a sick relative
  • Deal with an unforeseen emergency
  • Go to a doctors, dentist or vet appointment

This list could go on and on, for some people their daily lives consist of this and more. So between all that which they apparently have full availability for, where are they finding the time to complete the 8-10 hours of work that has been set for that day?

Are they expected to work into the early hours of the morning? Because that sounds flexible. So why should they or their wife, husband, partner, mother, father etc. be denied any kind of flexibility to help with any of these responsibilities?

The Solution

Honestly, I think if there are any businesses suffering from any of the aforementioned bias I think they need some serious HR consulting. Working From Home is purely about location, what flexibility comes with that is a totally separate conversation for individual employers to have with their employees.

Although, no employee whether they WFH or not should feel unable to ask for certain needs to be met. And this certainly should not be the case for people who happen to have a member of their household who Works From Home.

There is no other way to put it: that it is not an employer’s business. It is quite literally someone else’s and that business just happens to have their employee Working From Home. And their work is every bit as important, time-consuming and attention requiring as any employee who does not conduct their Work From Home.

Either way, there is definitely a misconception about Working From Home and how flexible it is. The same could be said for the 4-day week which is another hot topic right now. See what John Adams has to to say on the subject and how flexible it really is.

Categories
Equality and Diversity Future of work

Transparent Salaries Scheme to close Gender-Pay Gap

On International Women’s Day 2022, a government pilot scheme was announced aiming to lessen the gender-pay gap for women. By having employers have totally transparent salaries in job descriptions.

This is definitely a step in the right direction. Find Your Flex have participated in research and are always aiming to be a driving force in eradicating the gender-gap. This will undoubtedly make a positive change in this area, but in other areas as well.

The main aim of this scheme is to remove barriers for women, which is excellent and more than needed. But transparent salaries will have other positive impacts too on job seekers in general.

Although this is a positive step in the right direction, there are questions that this raises. Such as; should this only be a pilot scheme? What are the all round impacts of transparent salaries for employees and job seekers? And what more needs to happen in this area?

How will the Transparent Salaries Scheme affect the Gender-Pay Gap?

First and foremost; transparency in general within the workplace has a positive affect on the removal of all inequality. However, in terms of the gender-pay gap, transparent salaries put men and women on an equal playing field from the get go.

If the salary is transparent in the job description, that means there is little to no chance that the employer is going to pay a man more than a woman for the same role. Whereas, if the salary is advertised as Negotiable or On Application, there is no telling what an employer factors in when deciding what your salary is going to be.

By being transparent, everyone who applies knows they will be getting paid the same regardless of gender. Information is key, and Minister for Women Baroness Stedman-Scott appears to take this stance during her announcement of the scheme:

The UK can only grasp its full potential by championing its brightest and best, and ensuring everyone, regardless of their background, has the opportunity to succeed.

We believe that increased pay transparency will build on positive evidence of the role information can play when it comes to empowering women in the workplace.

It certainly empowers a woman to know what they are going to be paid if successful when applying for a role. If an employer offers less than what was advertised, the applicant is in a position to challenge that.

Though positive, should this have happened sooner?

While we all recognise this is a positive move in the right direction towards gender-equality in employment. Not to put a negative spin on it, but it is important to point out that this is a move that should have happened long ago.

Why is it important to point this out? Because we measure the speed of progress by how long it takes to achieve certain milestones in the present. In reality, making salaries transparent in job descriptions is a really simple yet effective move. One that could have been implemented much sooner.

The conversation on transparent salaries decreasing the gender-pay gap and discrimination has been ongoing for years. Many employers who adopted a transparent salary policy have advocated it’s use to eradicate discrimination.

In 2016 Huffington Post spoke to several business leaders and owners who advocate transparent salaries. Ian Pearman, who at the time was the CEO of one of the UK’s biggest advertising agencies and he put it in the simplest terms:

Nothing is more corrosive than the sense that there is inequality in the system. And layered on top of that may be specific concerns relating to gender and race – ‘Am I paid less because I am a woman? Or from an ethnic minority?’ With transparency, these questions don’t even occur.

When you put it like that, it seems obvious that all organisations should have transparent salary policies. And if you think 2016 is as far back as this goes, you’d be wrong.

In the same article the global food shop Wholefoods stated they have been making the salaries of their employees public since the 1980’s! Yet in 2018 there were still arguments being made against all companies implementing this.

Is there an argument against transparent salaries?

That depends on your point of view. In an article by Time which was published in 2018, with the pros and cons were being weighed up. With the pros still being the eradication of discrimination, closing of the gender-pay gap and employee benefits.

Some of the supposed drawbacks included; risking pitting employees against each other due to jealousy and businesses struggling to hire people to lower rate roles.

In response to the latter; if a business is really struggling to secure applicants, the role must be extremely unappealing and not just from a salary standpoint. If increasing the salary is not possible then there needs to be other benefits to the role that will make up for the lower salary.

As for the former; jealousy and resentment in the workplace is a whole separate issue. If it exists within your organisation there will likely be more to it than just salaries alone. Sadly this is sometimes unavoidable whether employees know each other’s salaries or not.

Though these are challenges, they really cannot be used as excuses in the face of eradicating discrimination and closing the gender-pay gap. It may mean more work for HR department and recruitment but in the long term every company would be better off.

Why is this only a pilot scheme?

Judging from what we have laid out already, you may be wondering why the government is only rolling out a pilot scheme. If the pro’s are so vast and con’s are so minimal shouldn’t a full scheme/legislation be implemented?

That is certainly the hope for the future. However, because this scheme has been planned to achieve a certain goal i.e closing the gender-pay gap, a lot goes into this.

Existing policies, practices and processes may need to change and then if after a set amount of time has past, the scheme will be reviewed. If the objectives have been achieved and the overall outcome is positive then it may lead to a wider scheme or piece of legislation being implemented.

So what could this lead to? If a wider scheme is introduced many big companies will ensure their salaries are transparent. Any companies that don’t will look increasingly unethical. Possibly gaining a bad employer reputation if they don’t make the shift.

Of course the main hope is that a major piece of legislation is passed which will require all UK businesses to be transparent and state salaries on job descriptions. Then they will obligated to do so which would be a major victory for employees and job seekers alike.

Transparent Salaries will not only help close the Gender-Pay Gap, but benefit job seekers in general

Although this scheme is being piloted in an attempt to close the gender-gap. The fact of the matter is that it is a huge step in the right direction for job seekers in general.

In August of last year, Find Your Flex conducted our own research into this topic. We asked whether job applicants are put off applying for a role where the salary is not stated in the job description. Over 4,000 people voted and the overwhelming majority said they would be put off.

They expanded on their reasons providing view points that gave us an understanding of what is important to job seekers.

So why are transparent salaries vital in job descriptions? The most obvious answer is that pay is one of the most important parts of the job for applicants.

What we are paid is what facilitates our lives, so we need to know if the role we are applying for will continue to do this. Not stating a salary from the beginning puts the applicant at a disadvantage.

If the salary is stated as negotiable or on application, the employer holds all the cards. Offering applicants different salaries for whatever criteria they see fit. This is why transparent salaries are not only a tool to combat a gender issue, but discrimination in general.

For all an applicant knows, they are being offered less because of their gender, age, race, experience-level, who knows? If the salary is not stated only the employer knows, how is that fair or right?

Now job applicants will know from the beginning what their salary will be. They know it will be based on their ability to do the job and nothing else. And they will know whether or not the job is worth applying for without wasting their time.

A step in the right direction

All in all, this is a step in the right direction to close the gender-pay gap, erase discrimination from the workplace and empower job seekers.

Should this have happened sooner? Yes it absolutely should. And it does show that as far as progress goes, both the government and employers have a ways to go. We know what the issues in both the workplace and in the employment process are, so it should not have taken this long for this scheme to arise. The time for action is now.

Although, as the old cliche goes: better late than never. And we do want to stress that this is a positive development, if not only for the scheme itself but hopefully the domino effect it will cause.

We are looking forward to what effect this scheme will have on the future of working and we will be watching this space very closely in the meantime.

Thank you for reading, if you would like to find out what more Find Your Flex has to say on this and other topics click the link here.

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