HR Policy (or lack of) still cripples Top Management Gender diversity!


  • Unfair treatment of employees returning from maternity leave
  • Inflexible working hours not allowing for child-minding responsibilities
  • Unequal pay and bonuses for equal work performance across genders

These age old sex discrimination issues and more are still not being dealt with by HR policies. This is crippling UK businesses in their ability to feed high achieving female employees up the management pipe-line, leading to poor gender diversity in the top management positions.

Studies show that gender diversity in top management and board positions is good for business (i.e. McKinsey 2007: Women Matter) and also, probably not so surprisingly that men and women generally have complementary management qualities (i.e. Talent Innovations 2012). This combination of information makes it crucial for companies to ensure their top management includes a good split between males and females.

However, many top UK companies are not setting a good example for our smaller and younger businesses. Many are still working with the attitude of ‘more of the same’ and continuing the traditions of the ‘male, pale and stale’ for boardrooms and top management alike. On FTSE 100 and 250 boards, only 15% and 9% of seats respectively are held by women, and 11% and 45% of these companies have all male boards! (Women on Boards Report 2012) We are a long way from an equal split of 50% males and females on boards and also still a long way behind the leaders in gender equality at board level, Norway, at over 40% females on boards!

Six in ten university graduates are female in the UK and females are faring better on grades than males. Almost 50% of the UK workforce is female (ONS report 2012) yet the talent being shown at University level is being lost on the way to top management through poor HR or lack of HR policy to tackle the age old discrimination issues.

The largest gender pay gap shown in the ONS figures is occurring after the 30’s, after which age progression to top level management for the best and brightest has usually begun. Are HR Policies attempting to ensure that females can still progress their careers when they need time out to have a baby, or flexible hours to take responsibility caring for a child? Or are companies allowing females to be side lined who ‘choose’ to have a child?

The fact that 80% of part-time workers are female and that the median hourly pay for part-time work is almost 40% lower than that for full-time work (ONS 2012 Hourly-earnings) may put forward the possible conclusion that

  • companies are still not being as flexible as they need to be for females to continue with full-time work alongside family obligations
  • females are being forced into lower paid part-time arrangements for the sake of being better family makers
  •  companies are losing out on female talents and skills!

Check out our fact sheets for more information on why gender diversity in top management is important and how HR policy can help to break down the barriers to female career progression.

Change Management: HR Policy overcoming the emotional hurdles to success?

Change Management Image - Hurdles to Success

What is the point of change management? You see a way you can improve the company services/products/profits, and you make the change, simple? Or is it?

Change can have negative emotional repercussions, on both employees and customers, no matter how well intended the changes are. This is why it is important for HR policy to be involved with change, and why change needs to be managed carefully.

For employees, they may have felt comfortable with the services or products they had the ability to provide, with the knowledge and processes they were used to following. Now they have to learn new knowledge and/or processes, requiring more effort to reach the same level of competency at their given tasks as they were capable of previously. Employees need to be able to see that the extra effort they are making for the changes is worth it for them. To share in the vision that the changes are working towards improvement in their company, boosting pride in their work and their trust in the ability of management, rather than reducing their morale and productivity.

For customers, they may be a one off shopper, or one that has been using your company for years, as a reliable source for a service or product they require: If they are uninformed about the changes being made, and why, any inevitable delays or reduced service or product quality during the transition phase would be unexpected and intolerable, causing customers to be frustrated and annoyed. Customers would only see the negative impacts on their services/products as a change towards company incompetence, and would most certainly cause customers to rethink if they would continue using your company, or if they would forward this negativity to other potential customers!

Change management involves effective planning and communication; both before and after changes are implemented, to not only reduce the negative emotional hurdles described above but to overwrite the negative thoughts with positive thoughts towards the change and the company itself. Change management assesses the impacts against the positive gains of a change and then works to (as the song goes) ‘accentuate the positives’ and ‘eliminate the negatives’.

In this case accentuating the positives means building the case for the change, why it needs to be done, what the vision for the future is, and how the change will improve the company. The important part is how you manage that change for the good of all involved.

Eliminating the negatives is probably the more obvious task. It involves ensuring that all possible required resources (people, company ‘systems’, communication services, time/timing and training/education etc.) for a smooth transition are available, making sure any change laws are abided by and ensuring everyone knows how the change will work, where and when. It is important to remember to inform not only employees what is to be expected but suppliers and customers, where the changes may affect their dealings with you. This way any expected negative effects can be minimised, and any unavoidable negative effects can have plans in place to work around problems before they occur, minimising any annoyance and frustration during the transition.

Change is an important factor in any business – make yours a positive experience. Check out our factsheet: HR Policy: Change Management Check List for more detail on making the most of your company changes and overcoming the emotional hurdles to success, or contact Amanda for HR Consulting on the subject of change management at

Is your HR Policy allowing your Staff Appraisals to be effective?

appraisal thumbs up or ok sign or constructive criticism thumb down

Staff Appraisals are a great tool for problem solving and gives the perfect opportunity to give constructive feedback & staff praise as deserved/required. Is your HR policy set up to make your staff appraisals effective and if so are you using staff reviews to their full potential?

Companies often know that annual staff appraisals should be done but the actual time and resources to do so often mean they are put on the back burner. The resulting staff review may become a hurried tick box exercise (at the umpteenth request), or never even done. This means that the vital one-on-one employer-employee communication of this exercise – providing positive work incentive, advice for improvement and an opportunity to bring forward any unheard work issues – is lost! There is little doubt that continued appraisal abuse like this will lead to reduced staff morale and productivity.

Preparation takes too long to fit in my busy schedule if I don’t just tick the boxes!

As an employer, you probably want to receive the full potential of giving constructive feedback and praise in your annual reviews. To do this each individual employee’s strengths, weaknesses and progress must be identified for discussion in the review. If you have only a couple of employees then this task may not be too difficult, however, accurately keeping track of additional employees over time quickly becomes an arduous and/or timely task.

I’m not an elephant; I can’t accurately recall every employee’s progress over an entire year!

The incentive of imminent review in preceding weeks may spur extra productivity from an employee but it is important that these weeks are not the crux of the review. An effective annual appraisal addresses ongoing work including accurate recall and discussion of the employee’s performance, effort and progression over the entire year (not just the last week or so). With this in mind, thorough preparation should be completed before each annual appraisal to ensure the feedback fairly reflects the year’s work of each employee.

It is so time consuming to make annual appraisals effective that if it wouldn’t be so detrimental I would remove them from the HR policy completely! …So what can be done to ensure that the full potential of staff appraisals is reached whilst making it more cost effective?

Quarterly reviews may be the hot-fix for your HR policy. Performing quarterly reviews alongside your main annual review gives immediate production boosts:

  • ‘Imminent review incentive increasing production’ four times a year instead of once a year
  • Higher levels of ongoing positive work attitude encouraged by more timely praise
  • Faster improvement of work standards, where needed, through more regular constructive feedback
  • Work issues caught sooner avoiding some problem escalation
  • Higher effort levels from employee loyalty due to stronger direct positive employer-employee contact

Hang on a minute – I thought we were looking at increasing cost efficiency? Simple math tells me that holding quarterly reviews would mean four times the amount of effort required?

Now we are at the real meat of the matter. Quarterly reviews are not a duplication of the annual review, they are an aid for the annual review (as well as providing the other positives stated above). The idea is to combine four simple quick tasks to replace one longer, complex, and in some cases (where constructive feedback is strongly required) rather daunting task.

It doesn’t take an elephant to recall the productivity, punctuality, work relations etc. for just the last three months of an employee’s work, and jot down a score and praise/feedback for each. Each consecutive quarterly review notes can then be compared to the previous review to accurately determine progress during that period. This is a much simpler task that may require a couple of minutes thought rather than a complex consideration of a whole year’s ups and downs.

Finally for the annual review, the quarterly notes can be combined as hard evidence to give an overview of the full year (in particular this may be a great aid in companies where annual reviews also mean pay reviews). Essentially, using the quarterly review method, a more effective staff appraisal system is provided whilst splitting the work load into simpler, quicker segments easier to fit into a schedule – no more skipped or wasted reviews!

Ongoing checks on staff – Right to Work

right to work documents

You may have completed the required right to work checks when you first took on a new employee, and thought that’s where your duty ended for avoiding prosecution for hiring illegal workers. Did you realise that in some cases further checks must to be performed on an ongoing basis? Does your HR policy ensure your company covers the necessaries to avoid heavy fines and, or prosecution?

Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006:
You are breaking the law if you employ a person who does not have the right to work in the UK.
Under Section 15: An employer not completing the necessary checks can be charged a civil penalty of up to £10,000 for each illegal worker they have hired.
Under section 21:
An employer knowingly employing an illegal worker can face criminal prosecution leading to the possibility of up to 2 years imprisonment and, or an unlimited fine!

Certain documents, such as a passport showing the person is a British citizen, provide a statutory excuse for the entire length of a worker’s employment. With a statutory excuse, if the employee is subsequently found to be an illegal worker, the employer may avoid the charges and, or prosecution.

Right to work documentation that does not give a clear indication that the person has a permanent right to work in the UK only provides the employer an excuse for 12 months. For this type of document the employer must repeat the checks at least every 12 months to renew their excuse.

An example for this would be where the document is a Home Office issued letter indicating that the person can stay in the UK and is allowed to do the work in question (in combination with an official NI document).

Remember, duties from the 2006 Act apply to anyone who starts working for you on or after 29 February 2008. Also, the previous 1996 Act means that you should have already acquired appropriate Right to Work documents for all employees that started working for you between 27 January 1997 and 28 February 2008. Do you have the correct documentation required for all relevant staff?

So, as an employer, to have an excuse (and avoid possible fines and prosecution):

  • Correctly carry out the required checks on acceptable documents before a person starts work
  • Repeat the required checks for any person whose documentation does not show a permanent right to work, at least every 12 months, or sooner, if a person’s limited right to work is due to expire before the 12 months deadline.
  • Ensure to keep within any restrictions on the type of work and, or, the amount of hours they can work.
  • Do not under any circumstances employ an illegal migrant worker knowingly.

Note: A person’s Right to Work documentation only needs to be kept for 2 years after the employment of that person has ceased.

Related Factsheet

Right to Work Checks – Avoiding Employment of Illegal Workers