The recent events highlighted by the Me Too Movement as well as many other cases of sexual harassment at the work place have shone a bright spotlight on employment law. Specifically, these cases have highlighted how HR can play a bigger role to ensure that worker’s rights are observed in the workplace.
While recent movements such as “Me Too” focused mainly on the plight of women, the truth is that every worker, regardless of sex, deserves some kind of protection when executing their duties at their place of employment. In many cases, the observation and enforcement of these worker’s rights often fall on the HR department. As such, HR strategies should and insight into worker’s rights.
Granted, there are Labor Laws that have been enacted to protect employees. Most of these laws are set up to protect employees against:
- Harassment and discrimination.
- Hiring and firing.
- Workplace safety and prevent work injury.
- Family and medical leave.
- Fair play.
The complexity of these laws often require people running the HR departments of most companies to have advanced degree or be well educated in the art of human resources.
Why HR Strategies Should Include Worker’s Rights
HR departments the world over are widely viewed as rather unfriendly and more focused on protecting the company than they are protecting the employees. While there might be some truth to this notion, the reality is every HR department should strive to do both. Without a happy and satisfied workforce, the company the HR department might be seeking to protect won’t be as productive nor attract high profile recruits due to the inevitable high employee turnover rate.
Here are some reasons why and how HR departments can include worker’s rights in their strategies:
1. Have an Open Door Policy
One of the main reasons why people tend to misunderstand most HR departments is because the people running these departments have cut themselves off from the rest of the company. To many employees, the only kind of news they get from HR is bad news. If part of the HR strategy were to have an open door policy, then more workers might feel comfortable enough to bring their complaints forward and have them resolved in-house as opposed to filing a lawsuit.
2. Stop Playing “Favorites”
As much as the HR department is designed to help the company achieve its goals by finding and managing the right personnel, these HR departments should avoid the sense of favoritism when it comes to dealing with employee issues. If every time an employee complains about something that could paint the organization in bad light, the HR’s reaction is to reprimand or terminate, then fewer employees will feel comfortable coming forward with issues such as sexual harassment or discrimination in the work place. The best strategy here is for the HR department to hold a thorough and fair investigation into the matter and render a just verdict. It should be seen to do so. That way, employees will feel their rights are being protected by the HR department as opposed to being curtailed in favor of the organization.
3. Set up a Transparent Dispute Resolution System
This is one of the most important aspects of running any organization. The fact that most companies will have people from various backgrounds working for them means that there will be conflict in the workplace. These employees need to know that when any conflict arises they have a fair and transparent conflict resolution system set up by the HR department.
4. Be Highly Conversant with Worker’s Rights and Labor Laws
As already mentioned, a good HR department is often run by highly educated individuals who are very conversant with Labor Laws and Worker’s Rights. The HR department should take it upon itself to learn all it can about the kind of laws that apply to that particular organization and business model. Not all Labor Laws apply to every organization and the kind of conflict resolution strategy employed will often depend on which laws have to be observed.
5. Establish Boundaries and Clearly Educate the Workforce on their Rights
One of the best ways to ensure that your company observes and adheres to worker’s rights is to actually educate the workers on their rights. The thing about people is that, while they might not know the law to the letter as it applies to them, they tend to know when something just isn’t right. In some cases, what is perceived as “isn’t right” by the worker might not actually qualify as illegal but the fact that it made them feel uncomfortable enough should be course for concern for any HR department. In keeping with transparency and a robust conflict resolution system, the HR department should seek to educate the employee on their rights as a worker for that organization; both legally and as per organizational values and standards.
It’s very possible for the HR department to protect both the company as well as the employee. With a bit of transparency, in-house employee training and having an open door policy when it comes to reporting any wrongdoing, the HR department will be in the perfect position to serve both parties.