According to a survey of European employers, an increasing number are taking steps to improve workplace equality and to support the mental health of their employees.

The Littler 2019 report found that, in relation to equality issues, the vast majority of employers (85 per cent) were focusing most attention on unequal pay, up slightly from 80 per cent in the 2018 survey.

Although much of this activity has been driven by the introduction of legal measures - for instance pay-gap reporting in the UK, France, Germany, Ireland, Spain and Italy - the survey found that some employers are taking additional steps beyond those required by the law. These include improving transparency around wages and pay policies and modifying compensation policies.

That is not to say that employers have universally welcomed legally mandated pay gap audits. The biggest concern, expressed by 32 per cent of respondents, was that they might increase employee dissatisfaction regarding their personal compensation. Just over a fifth (21 per cent) were concerned about the negative publicity that might result from the data; while a fifth (20 per cent) said that they were not concerned at all by the measures.

The survey data also suggests that European employers are taking action to address workplace sexual harassment, although to a lesser degree than their American counterparts.

The most common steps reported include: updating HR policies or handbooks (32 per cent); being more proactive in addressing employee complaints (31 per cent); and introducing new investigation procedures to manage complaints (30 per cent). 

More respondents this year indicated that they were “extremely concerned” about workplace mental health than any other issue (17 per cent). In terms of concrete steps that they are taking to support their employees, 41 per cent of respondents said they provided paid time off; 38 per cent said they limited work hours; 28 per cent said they provided outside resources; while 17 per cent said they provided internal education about mental health issues to help remove the stigma sometimes associated with mental ill-health and to encourage staff to seek support.

Jo Seery, of Thompsons Solicitors, commented: “The survey shows the importance of legislation in redressing the imbalance in relation to gender pay, the increasing significance of mental health and that more needs to be done in relation to sexual harassment both by employers and legislators.”

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