Littler gives employment low down

Workplace equality, mental health and Brexit top the agenda of European employers, according to Littler survey.


The second annual survey states European employers are channelling concerns over fair pay and harassment into concrete actions and preparing for impending Brexit. Employers are also taking a variety of steps to support the mental health of their employees.

Workplace Equality

European employers are focusing a great deal of attention on equal pay, reporting increased engagement on a variety of potential actions in comparison to the 2018 survey. Providing female and diverse employees with more training and opportunities for advancement showed the greatest increase (up from 21 percent in 2018 to 33 percent in 2019), followed by improving transparency around wages and pay policies (up from 21 to 30 percent) and modifying compensation policies (up from 25 to 32 percent). The proliferation of laws mandating gender pay gap audits in European countries appears to be one driver of this activity. Most respondents (80 percent) identify conducting and reporting on their gender pay gaps as a concern, but the European employers surveyed are also taking actions beyond those required by law. “In addition to legal liability, employers are worried that pay inequities in their workplaces could negatively impact their reputations, employee satisfaction and their ability to attract talent,” said Thomas Griebe, Littler partner in Germany.

Sexual harassment

European employers are also moving slightly more aggressively to address workplace sexual harassment, by updating HR policies (up from 26 percent in 2018 to 32 percent in 2019), more proactively addressing complaints and misconduct (up from 23 to 31 percent) and strengthening investigative procedures (up from 23 to 30 percent). A fair percentage of respondents support European governments taking steps to combat sex-based harassment and discrimination in the workplace; nearly half (42 percent) support requiring companies to designate a point of contact for workers to bring allegations and more than a third (35 percent) support mandatory reporting on the state of gender equality. “Given that strict regulatory action has not been widespread in the countries surveyed, employers appear to be taking action to address sexual harassment in order to ensure a positive workplace for employees and help protect themselves from liability,” said Merete Furesund, Littler partner in Norway. “Concern and attention to this issue have led European employers to take a range of concrete actions and boost their efforts to combat it.” A comparison with the results of Littler’s latest annual survey of employers in the United States, released in May 2019, shows higher European engagement on equal pay, whereas more US employers report taking action to address workplace sexual harassment.

Workplace Mental Health

Against the backdrop of an aging workforce, rapidly evolving technology and market pressures requiring employees to do more with less, European employers are increasingly focused on mental illness in the workplace. Nearly nine in 10 respondents (87 percent) say their organisations are taking various actions to address and support employees’ mental health. Forty-one percent are providing adequate time off and sick leave, 38 percent are limiting work hours and off-the-clock work and 35 percent are encouraging a culture that supports open communication between employees and management. “Workplace mental health is having its #MeToo movement. It’s always been there, but now it’s being acknowledged as a serious concern,” said Stephan Swinkels, coordinating artner international at Littler. “Given the array of forces driving the issue, we can expect continued momentum as workers feel more comfortable speaking out and companies become more involved in order to retain talent, reduce workplace stress and promote productivity.”

Brexit’s Impact on Employment

Despite the fog of uncertainty surrounding respondents in late summer, when they took the survey, 48 percent say they are somewhat or very prepared for the employment-related impacts of Brexit. Only 12 percent say they are unprepared or somewhat prepared, and the remaining 40 percent are neutral. UK respondents expressed the highest degree of preparedness; 67 percent say they feel very or somewhat prepared. “For UK employers, having access to the skilled workers they need to run their businesses is absolutely critical,” said Paul Quain, Littler partner in the UK. “A general climate of uncertainty that makes preparation difficult as companies don’t know what they are preparing for – combined with some anti-immigrant sentiment, including against non-British EU nationals, that has been seen by the British government as a key driver behind Brexit – leaves a great deal of ambiguity around a post-Brexit skills-based immigration system.” The 2019 European Employer Survey Report can been found here, and the survey infographic here.

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