MEET THE SPEAKERS
The 6th annual MAD World Summit
Theme: Working together to achieve a step change in employee mental health and wellbeing.
As we continue to navigate constant change and uncertainty, leading employers have recognised that their people’s wellbeing underpins both individual and business success. This is great progress, but too many organisations are still struggling to make a real difference to workplace culture, mental health and wellbeing. Whilst as many as 92% of UK organisations have wellbeing initiatives, only 29% would say that wellbeing is fully integrated into their overall business strategy – relying instead on ad hoc initiatives without demonstrable results.
For cultures of care to be truly embedded, and for organisations to get value for their investment in employee mental health and wellbeing, we need a step change.
Whether you’re just getting started on your workplace mental health and wellbeing journey, or you’re moving to the next level of implementation, this year’s MAD World Summit will provide an unparalleled opportunity to learn from the leaders, stay ahead of trends and share ideas in real time with like-minded peers.
Key topics to be addressed include:
- What you need to know to invest wisely in workplace wellbeing
- Wellbeing washing: – what it is, why it matters and how to overcome it
- The future of work through the lens of workplace culture, mental health and wellbeing
- Meeting the wellbeing needs of different working demographics in a hybrid world of work
- Safeguarding the health of the nation – getting people back to work effectively
- Creating a leadership playbook for a mentally-well organisation
- Measurement of workplace wellbeing – using data to elevate your strategy
Threading through this year’s Summit’s sessions are the themes of sustainability and diversity. Both underpin the provision of all-round, inclusive wellbeing of colleagues and the creation of working conditions under which every individual can thrive.
Collaboration is key for workplace wellbeing programmes to have real impact, so we’ve designed this year’s agenda to enable you to bring colleagues from across the organisation together to agree what’s needed now and next with this crucial agenda. With keynotes, panels, case studies, workshops and roundtables, there’s something for everyone.
Join us for a day of insight, inspiration and connection.
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Money troubles and poor mental health have long gone hand in hand, and while the many pressures of modern living are taking their toll on employees today to raise burnout rates, poor financial wellbeing is greatly to blame.
Already a significant issue before the pandemic, burnout is now becoming increasingly prevalent, with the cost-of-living crisis piling on the pressure. Promoting good financial wellbeing in the workplace is therefore more important than ever to beat employee burnout. So, let’s take a closer look at this pithy issue and how you can help combat burnout with straightforward financial wellbeing strategies.
The cause of burnout can be summed up in a word – stress. That is, prolonged periods of excessive stress, leading to emotional, physical and mental exhaustion. First coined as a term by psychologist Herbert Freudenberger, in 1974, who defined it as a “state of mental and physical exhaustion caused by one’s professional life”, burnout is far more than a slight case of the blues. The World Health Organization (WHO) now classifies it as an “occupational phenomenon”, and describes it as involving:
- feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion
- increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job
- reduced professional efficacy
Burnout is now a major issue for employees and employers alike, costing both dear. According to research conducted by Mental Health UK, 1 in 5 people said they were “unable to manage stress and pressure in the workplace”, and a 2023 survey revealed that people taking sick leave because of burnout or work-related sickness is costing the UK economy £28 billion per year. Indeed, burnout can seriously impact productivity not just as a result of absenteeism, but because of presenteeism and overall reduced engagement of employees at work.
Burnout is clearly not a new phenomenon, but has been on HR professionals’ radar for many years. However, its incidence has been increasing significantly since the pandemic, perhaps unsurprisingly with all the stresses and strains that created, including financial woes. In fact, a report by Indeed found that 52% of workers were feeling burned out, which was up 9% from a pre-Covid survey.
The sources of stress that can cause burnout may be many and varied, but might include a heavy workload, a lack of control over decision-making, poor work-life balance and concerns over job security. However, among these causes, financial worries loom large.
According to the research conducted by Mental Health UK, 81% of people agreed that money worries could contribute to burnout. This should not be a surprise to anyone who has laid awake at night with financial matters on their mind. Indeed, lack of sleep, in itself, caused by such worries can make it harder to cope and exacerbate burnout, as a study by the University of South Florida found that losing as little as 16 minutes of sleep a night can make the difference between having a good or a bad day at work.
In fact, a recent survey of UK full-time employees found that 23% of respondents admitted to losing sleep as a result of financial anxieties, 32% were struggling to complete day-to-day tasks because they were worried about their financial situation, 56% now consider their personal finances to be their greatest source of stress, and a disturbingly high 70% were worried that their financial situation was going to deteriorate further in the future. Unfortunately, with the current tough economic climate this does not look set to improve imminently, as, according to research this year, 62% of UK adults in full- or part-time work said that the rising cost of living was contributing to their stress.
So, what can you do to help your workers cope better with such financial pressures and beat employee burnout? Well, here are some straightforward strategies you can implement, which can benefit both your employees and your business:
One of the most powerful ways to fight poor financial wellbeing is to provide good financial education programmes and resources for your people. This enables them to become more financially proficient and navigate modern life better. Consequently, it can help them feel more secure and beat employee burnout. Such resources could include:
- Interactive workshops
- A library of learning materials
- Financial management tools
These need to be easily accessible and could be made available via an online employee financial wellbeing portal.
A lack of control is a major source of stress that can contribute towards burnout, so helping your employees take control of their finances may improve their overall wellbeing. This could involve providing resources and guidance to help them budget effectively, and might include supplying access to an online financial wellbeing platform that provides budgeting tools, to help them manage this with ease. In addition, you could also offer access to a debt management service, as this can help those who need it to set up a manageable repayment plan and gain back control of their finances.
In general, you can help beat employee burnout by making your staff feel more listened to, which can lower stress levels and improve workplace engagement. This is especially important where financial issues are concerned, as only by having open communication on the topic can financial pressures be eased, assistance be offered and wellbeing be improved. This may not be easy, as traditional taboos still mean many are reluctant to have financial conversations, but it is vital to cultivate a work culture that is supportive of monetary issues. You can do this by providing a safe place to talk, being reassuring and offering practical financial assistance.
Helping your employees to financially plan for the future is a great way to beat employee burnout and lift morale. Uncertainty regarding future finances can create significant stress, and recent research found that those who plan for the future are three times more positive about their finances than those who do not. You can achieve this by helping your employees effectively plan for retirement, by offering a good pension plan. You might also help them locate any lost pension pots from previous jobs, to optimise their retirement funds, which can easily be done through a high-quality financial wellbeing platform.
Lastly, a one-size-fits-all solution is not the answer for financial wellbeing, as employees are all individuals and failing to recognise this could just alienate them and contribute to burnout. It is therefore a good idea to offer bespoke guidance to your employees, by providing free access to a financial adviser. In this way, they can discuss their individual financial requirements and find the answers they need.
By putting in place these simple strategies, you can help empower your employees to navigate the cost-of-living crisis better and strengthen their defences against burnout. With the severe negative impact this issue can have on both your staff and bottom line, it certainly pays to promote better financial wellbeing in the workplace.
About the author:
Chieu Cao is the founder and CEO of Mintago, an FCA-regulated company that provides a complete and inclusive financial wellbeing solution. By equipping its users with financial planning tools, over 1,000 pieces of educational material, access to financial advisers, a Money Helper AI tool and a dashboard that allows full pension management, Mintago helps businesses support their staff during the cost-of-living crisis and supply them with everything they need to navigate their financial lives with confidence. Mintago can also assist businesses in saving thousands in National Insurance contributions, as well as providing their staff with direct savings.
In today’s rapidly evolving work environments, nurturing a sense of belonging, support, and camaraderie among employees is pivotal for individual wellbeing and overall organisational success.
An innovative strategy gaining traction is the concept of ‘Lived Experience Peer Support’ communities, presenting a transformative solution to bolster employee engagement in wellbeing programmes. These non-hierarchical networks provide a dedicated space for employees to forge connections, share challenges and successes, and establish a supportive ecosystem tailored to enhancing wellbeing.
In this article, we delve into the compelling value of lived-experience peer support, exploring the mutual and reciprocal benefits it brings, and present practical advice for employers striving to implement these communities within their wellbeing programmes.
The essence of lived-experience peer support
Lived Experience Peer Support revolves around the premise that individuals grappling with similar challenges can offer unparalleled empathy, understanding, and guidance to one another. These communities thrive on their non-hierarchical nature, where everyone takes on roles of both provider and recipient of support. Within this inclusive environment, employees are empowered to open up about their experiences, knowing they are among colleagues who genuinely comprehend their struggles.
The value of non-hierarchical, Mutual Support
1. Enhanced Wellbeing and Resilience: Lived-experience peer support bolsters employee wellbeing by establishing spaces where individuals can candidly share their stories without the fear of judgment. This nurturing environment fosters resilience, enabling members to learn insights from one another’s coping strategies and adapt them to their unique challenges.
2. Strengthened Sense of Belonging: Employees who may feel isolated or overlooked find a sense of belonging within these communities. They realise they are not alone in their experiences and that their voices hold significance, greatly amplifying morale and engagement.
3. Skills Development and Learning: The diverse array of backgrounds and experiences within these communities provides opportunities for learning and growth. Members can exchange valuable insights, strategies, and knowledge that can significantly enhance their personal and professional lives.
Examples of lived-experience peer support communities
1. ADHD Peer Support Community: Picture an employee named Sarah, recently diagnosed with ADHD. She discovers real understanding in an ADHD Peer Support Community at her workplace. Through meaningful discussions and shared experiences, Sarah gains profound insights into effectively managing her condition within the work context. This community empowers her with actionable strategies while uplifting her spirits by making her feel heard and supported.
2. Menopause Peer Support Community: Consider Jane, a senior executive navigating the challenges of menopause. Within a Menopause Peer Support Community, she connects with other women encountering similar experiences. The community evolves into a space where Jane can openly address menopause related concerns, gather practical advice on symptom management, and receive heartfelt encouragement from her peers. This network assists Jane in maintaining her productivity and engagement during this transformative phase of her life.
How are peer-support communities (PSCs) different from employee resource groups (ERGs)?
While both Peer Support Communities (PSCs) and Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) contribute to employee wellbeing and organisational success, PSCs offer a unique advantage by fostering non-hierarchical, inclusive spaces for employees with shared experiences or interests. Thus cultivating mutual support and personal growth.
PSCs do not segregate employees based on specific characteristics, cultivating a more diverse and integrated environment where individuals from various backgrounds can connect, learn, and empathise together. ERGs, on the other hand, are formal groups aligned with diversity and inclusion goals, often led by designated members and focusing on specific identity-related topics, contributing to a broader understanding and awareness within the organisation.
Practical tips for employers
1. Identify Relevant Topics: Survey your workforce to comprehend the challenges and interests they face. Topics may encompass work-related stress or diversity and inclusion issues. This ensures that the peer support communities address issues that genuinely resonate with your employees.
2. Promote Inclusivity and Diversity: Guarantee that the peer support communities are inclusive and diverse. Encourage participation from employees of all backgrounds, experiences, and job roles. This diversity enriches discussions and broadens the spectrum of perspectives shared.
3. Create Safe Spaces: Establish ground rules emphasising confidentiality, respect, and empathy within the communities. Members should feel secure in sharing their experiences without apprehension.
4. Nurture Community Leaders: Identify individuals who have a passion for fostering connections and supporting others. Provide training on active listening, conflict resolution, and leadership skills. These leaders will steer discussions and uphold a positive atmosphere.
5. Provide Resources: Equip the communities with resources such as articles, webinars, and workshops to aid members in addressing their challenges. Allocating budgets for events or initiatives can further amplify the communities’ impact.
6. Celebrate and Recognise: Acknowledge the contributions of community leaders and spotlight success stories. This recognition not only motivates leaders but also underscores the broader organisation’s appreciation of these communities.
7. Embed at the Highest Level: Consider embedding your PSC at the highest level through executive endorsement and engagement. Invite top-level leaders to actively participate and champion the PSC’s initiatives, underscoring the organisation’s commitment to fostering a culture of mutual support and inclusivity. This conveys that the PSC holds value and support, encouraging more extensive participation and ensuring alignment with the company’s overarching mission and values.
Lived-experience peer support communities embody the essence of mutual aid and understanding in the workplace. By creating spaces where employees can share their challenges, triumphs, and knowledge, organisations foster a culture of empathy, support, and growth. Embracing the non-hierarchical, inclusive nature of these communities can lead to enhanced wellbeing, heightened engagement, and a more interconnected workforce.
Employers who prioritise the integration of lived experience peer support will reap the benefits of a resilient, empowered, and united team. For organisations with existing ERGs, integrating PSCs alongside them offers a potent strategy to address the pervasive issue of lack of active employee engagement in wellness programmes. This dual-pronged approach ensures a diverse range of avenues for connection and support, contributing to a thriving and harmonious work environment.
With a 400% increase in requests for an ADHD diagnosis since 2020 – the business world is rapidly waking up to the idea that harnessing the abilities of neurodiverse people in the workplace can make a real difference to the bottom line.
Assistive technology, training and coaching provider Thriiver are gold sponsors of the DE&I Symposium, which is taking place within the MAD World Summit on 12th October. In this article they give a sneak peek of some of the ideas they’ll be sharing as part of the panel session: “Benefits of having neurodiverse employees in the workplace”.
You can find out more about the fantastic speaker lineup and reserve your place at the DE&I Symposium here.
Tangible business benefits with a neurodiverse team
Hewlett Packard has reported neurodiverse teams are 30% more productive and the Harvard Business Review states that organisations that actively promote inclusivity generate 19% more revenue. With these compelling statistics, it is no wonder that organisations are now actively looking to recruit – and retain – their neurodiverse employees.
The reason for this is that neurodiverse people are usually exceptionally good at the skills that are becoming increasingly important in modern business. Creativity, problem-solving, critical thinking and looking at the big picture are all things that excel at and where technology and AI (Artificial Intelligence) often fail.
At the same time, potential employees are ranking companies that they want to work for on a company’s culture and inclusive approach. An effective PR campaign around inclusivity not only helps you attract potential talent, but also creates loyalty to your brand and better sales.
Since 1997, we at www.thriiver.co.uk have supported individuals with physical disabilities and neurodiversity in the workplace. The 400% increase in requests for an ADHD diagnosis aligns with an increase in demand for our services as organisations become aware of the business benefits of a neuro-inclusive culture to help them achieve their goals.
It starts with raising awareness…
It is estimated that 15 –20% of the population are neurodivergent, having one or more of the above conditions, where cognitive functioning and thinking patterns deviate from the perceived “typical” or neurotypical norm.
With the percentages being so high, it is highly likely that within your workplace there are neurodivergent employees. However, the stigmas have been such that research shows employees can take on average 3 years to disclose a neurodivergent condition for fear of a negative impact on themselves in the workplace. Another factor to consider is that there will be many neurodivergent employees who are oblivious to their neurodiversity – but they will still benefit from the same help and support.
The first step in the journey is to raise awareness of neurodiversity within your organisation.
Neurodiversity as a concept simply recognises that we all have diverse ways of thinking, learning, and processing information and the term is often used to describe conditions such as Autism Spectrum Condition (ASC), Dyslexia, Dyspraxia (DCD), Dyscalculia and ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder)
Changing the narrative
The good news is that times are changing – rapidly. With large organisations such as Dell, Microsoft, Google, and EY etc. actively recruiting neurodiverse employees and sharing the business benefits of neurodiverse teams, the narrative is finally shifting.
Everyone is an individual, and no two people with autism for example are the same, but there are some frequent traits that accompany various neurodivergent conditions. For example, a person with dyslexia might not be the best person to take notes in a meeting, but they can be great at solving problems, thinking outside of the box, and leading the meeting. A person with ADHD might find planning and prioritising challenging but can be extremely focused when given a clear task.
We have found that the key is to raise awareness of what being neurodivergent means. And then, as with any employee, focus on their strengths rather than weaknesses. With this approach everyone can reach their true potential and employees can thrive rather than survive.
There is a reason that football teams are not made up solely of strikers or goalkeepers – different skills are needed to succeed and the same applies in the working world. You are more likely to win a match if your goalies stay in goal rather than trying to make them run up field and score a goal.
The big organisations who are building neuro-inclusive workplaces are harnessing the power of difference and are reaping the benefits from initial recruitment through the retention of existing staff.
Currently, many companies are struggling to recruit yet among the incredibly talented neurodivergent community, unemployment is between 30 – 40%. If your HR managers and your senior teams are aware of the business benefits of neurodiverse teams, then they can take advantage of this rich talent pool that your competitors might be missing.
Post-pandemic, it has become harder to retain employees. Working patterns have shifted, employees have adapted to new ways of working and for some, a return to post-pandemic ways is a challenge. In many cases, people have become more aware of what works and what does not work for them, and it has left business leaders with a new set of challenges.
Without awareness and understanding, small issues can escalate and can lead to an employee leaving the business. This is not only costly for the employer, but upsetting for the individual, and can negatively affect the culture of the organisation. In many cases, fast, cost-effective, and easy reasonable adjustments can be made to ensure the employees stay in the business and are happy in their roles.
Reasonable adjustments can be simple tweaks
With the general lack of understanding that still exists around neurodivergent conditions it is not surprising that creating a neurodiverse workplace can feel daunting. But this does not need to be the case – you can start small and make a vast impact. With HR and senior teams briefed on the understanding and benefits of neurodiverse teams, this knowledge can cascade down throughout the business.
When existing employees feel there is a culture of inclusivity, they are more likely to disclose and communicate their challenges and this is a key step into providing reasonable adjustments, which in turn help everyone. It might be as simple as purchasing some dictation software to help an employee with dyslexia with writing emails, or a piece of mind mapping software to help an employee with ADHD organise their thoughts.
Or it could be that if working hours could be slightly adjusted, a person with autism could avoid rush hour and be more settled and productive as soon as they arrive at work.
Inclusion benefits all
There are so many Assistive Technologies available to help neurodivergent employees – and many help all employees. For example, everyone can benefit from spelling and grammar checkers, especially those who might not be working in their native language. And tools to help organise and prioritise tasks can help neurotypical and neurodivergent employees alike.
For areas where technology cannot help, coaching often can. Coaching for individuals helps employees to develop strategies for the workplace. Co-coaching on the other hand is for multiple people – often an employee and their manager. In this situation both parties learn how to work and develop strategies together and as part of a wider team. This approach benefits everyone within the team or department, improving efficiency, engagement, and increased innovation.
Celebrate difference and recognise everyone
Within the realm of diversity and inclusion, the consideration of neurodiverse teams, or neuroinclusive cultures remains to be relatively new. But on so many levels it is right thing to do – for access to a wider talent pool, an increase in retention rates, increased efficiency, productivity, and innovation… the list goes on and it is hard to find an argument as to why you would not want to actively promote a neuroinclusive culture.
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Mental health and wellbeing at work is a hot political potato right now. But where does the law actually stand?
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak recently said that his government is doing “everything we can to help more people thrive in work” because of the clear link between work and wellbeing.
But how well do the government’s laws support this mission? Which laws affect wellbeing at work?
This feature outlines the main laws you need to be aware of which are relevant to workplace wellbeing.
But, as Jodie Hill, Managing Partner and Founder at employment law specialist Thrive Law, who is speaking at MAD World on 12th October, says, it’s important to bear in mind that “the role of legislation is to create a basic minimum framework and employers should build from that”.
Legislation is the minimum required
“Legislation is not saying ‘this is all you should do as an employer’. Its job is to explain the bare minimum employers are required to do, because a lot of employers don’t know where to start when it comes to wellbeing,” she says.
She also points out it’s helpful to understand the difference between ‘primary’ and ‘secondary’ legislation when navigating the legal landscape. Primary legislation is the highest level of law possible, hardest to pass and typically refers to an ‘act’ or ‘statute’ or ‘law’ created by government. It’s broad and wide-ranging.
Secondary legislation is still legally binding but it is more flexible in terms of being more easily revoked or amended without new laws having to be passed. It goes more into the detail about how primary legislation should be implemented, containing detailed rules and regulations and specifics. It’s created by government agencies, ministers or other authorised organisations and is intended to fill in the gaps in the primary legislation.
Primary vs secondary legislation
“Secondary legislation contains the detail that is really important in terms of implementing wellbeing at work and is there to help support you achieve the things that are set out in the acts, the primary legislation. I am not aware of any secondary legislation for wellbeing; this is what needs to be created,” says Hill.
So, which legislation is most relevant to workplace wellbeing?
Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (primary legislation)
This is one of the most important laws that wellbeing professionals, and any employers and professionals working to protect wellbeing, must be aware of.
While there is no specific ‘wellbeing law’, this is the closest we get to one because it outlines a common law duty of care.
Employers are legally required to do all they reasonably can to protect their employees’ health, safety and wellbeing at work.
This includes making sure that the work environment is safe and protecting staff from harm in all its guises.
“The Act draws a distinction between health, safety, and welfare as distinct concepts,” says Mark Howard, Developing Markets Consultant at Krysalis Neuro Occupational Therapy. “Wellbeing is likely to extend to include diagnosed medical conditions. It is unclear if it may extend further to include enjoyment of work and motivation generally.”
However, as he points out, the HSE published its strategy for 2022-2032 last year called ‘Protecting people and places’ and cited its primary objective as to “reduce work-related ill-health, with a specific focus on mental health and stress”. This clearly confirms that mental health will be more of a focus than ever going forward.
One intention of this law is to ensure that employers treat mental and physical health as equally important. This means that potential ‘harms’ to health including psychosocial risks must be assessed too, rather than purely harm to one’s physical being, which has traditionally been the heartland of Health & Safety professionals.
“This can manifest itself in many ways but could include ensuring that employees have a work/life balance as well as ensuring they have the right equipment and training to carry out their work safely. A claim cannot be brought specifically for such a breach. However claims could be brought indirectly for discrimination, breach of contract, and constructive dismissal.”
These legal obligations are only related to risks which occur as a result of/at work. Howard explains this further:
“Within the health and safety context, employers are not responsible for risks arising which are unrelated to the workplace. Recently there has, rightly, been an increased focus on workplace welfare and wellbeing, and this emphasis is only likely to increase going forwards.”
Two important parts of this law to focus on, says Jo Yarker, Managing Partner, Affinity Health at Work, are that an organisation doesn’t cause “foreseeable” harm, and that it takes “reasonably practicable” actions, otherwise it will be breaking this law.
“Basically, if any kind of harm is foreseeable, then an organisation has a duty to take action to prevent or mitigate the risk to harm, taking actions that are reasonable in terms of time, money and effort given the size of the risk. Where no action is taken the organisation is effectively in breach of the HSE Act” she says.
The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 (secondary legislation)
This is where the legal need for companies to make a ‘suitable and sufficient assessment’ of the risks to the health and safety of their employees at work is made clear.
This means that by law employers with 5 or more employees, must:
Identify any risks to their employees’ health, for example by carrying out a risk assessment
Take steps to prevent or reduce work-related stress
Commit significant aspects of its risk assessment to writing
Employers can also find more useful guidance to ensure they are promoting positive mental health at work in HSE’s Management Standards and the ISO 45003 guidance. But this is not law, it’s best practice advice which, if followed, will help to prevent breaking the law.
“Our experience is that even those organisations that have a lot of resource and expertise find the ISO guidance complex,” says Yarker. “The HSE Management Standards are a much more friendly, entry-level read.” The WHO guidelines on mental health are also useful (see this article for more info).
The Equality Act 2010 (primary legislation)
This makes it a legal obligation for employers to make reasonable adjustments for employees with disabilities. This includes a mental health problem if it has a substantial, adverse, and long-term effect (likely to last or has lasted 12 months on normal day-to-day activities (not just work related activities).
“The mental health piece is what employers often miss in this legislation,” says Workplace Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategist Amy McKeown. “When employers think of ‘reasonable adjustments’ they mostly think of getting the right fitting desk, or such like, rather than thinking about adjustments that help mental health like adjusting the nature of the work or time to rest.”
Employment lawyer Hill describes this act as “the key piece of legislation guiding employers when dealing with instances of discrimination” and affords “significant protection to employees, workers and job applicants”
The Equality Act 2010 identifies nine protected characteristics:
Marriage and civil partnership
Pregnancy and maternity
Religion or belief
Jo Yarker says: “The new Acas guidance on reasonable adjustments for mental health provides information for help employers, managers and employees and includes examples of good practice that show putting in place small changes to the way someone works can make a big difference to an individuals’s access to work, and can help organisations meet their legal obligations.”
The Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Act (primary legislation)
This has now received Royal Assent and is due to become law in 2024 .
It makes changes to how flexible working requests can be made, in light of the huge changes to the working world post-Covid, and due to significant campaigning from bodies like the CIPD on the matter.
ACAS Code of Practice on Flexible Working recommended that employers should offer an appeal if they reject a request, but this hasn’t been included in the act.
Employment lawyer Hill explains the main changes are:
Employees will be able to make two flexible working requests in any 12-month period.
Employers must deal with requests within two months of receipt—if no extension is agreed.
Employers are unable to refuse a request until they have ‘consulted’ with the employee. It remains to be seen, however, what this ‘consultation’ needs to include, since there is no legislative de minimis requirement.
Employees won’t need to explain the impact of their request, if accepted, and how any impact might be dealt with.
“All these changes to flexible working will help with wellbeing because if flexible working is more accessible, that’s helpful for people who are struggling with their mental health, or don’t want to get to the point of struggling, because they can enjoy a better work life balance,” says Hill.
Day One Flex (secondary legislation)
The act itself doesn’t contain the right to request flexible working from day one. However, alongside passing the Flexible Working Act, the government announced that secondary legislation will give employees the right to ask for flexible working from day one of a new job.
Nevertheless, until this is actually passed, employees need to have 26 weeks of service before they are able to make a request. Hill explains: “Employees are able to make the request but they don’t have the statutory right so the employer doesn’t have to consider it.”
Many wellbeing professionals welcome developments in this area.
“It’s really positive that we’ve got the new legislation on Day One Flex on the horizon because flexible working will have to be considered as soon as someone starts at a new company in future,” says Cali Gold, Head of People, YuLife. “It means you can have that conversation early on about ‘how can we put a framework around this role that considers all these important factors?’
Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (primary legislation)
This became law on 5th January 2023, meaning its requirements need to be incorporated into company reporting starting in 2025.
This is the revised Financial Reporting Directive which has been updated to ensure companies report on sustainability goals. In the main, it applies to large listed companies.
Under the CSRD, companies will be required to disclose the actions they are taking around:
Treatment of employees and social matters directly related to wellbeing
Social matters and treatment of employees
Anti-corruption and bribery
Diversity on company boards (in terms of age, gender, educational and professional background)
“Currently this legislation is only mandatory for large companies, but there will be a trickle down effect and likely mandatory reporting for SMEs to come,” says Lucy Boreham, Director at female led specialist ESG consultancy Baynel. “This new regulation is trying to bring consistency in non-financial metrics (ESG) as there isn’t a global standard, just best practice.”
Laws recently under discussion…
Should Mental Health First Aid be mandatory?
The idea of making mental health first aid in companies mandatory has been muted for years now. Hill was invited to lead a parliamentary roundtable by the MP Dean Russell on the topic recently.
This roundtable concluded that the point of any such changes in the law would be to achieve parity between physical and mental health. It was concluded that – while mental health first aid is a good idea – it’s certainly not the only solution.
Hill gave her opinion that the law needs to support employers more in terms of what they should be doing about workplaces wellbeing; it needs to identify the actual problems in the workplace, then recommend multiple possible solutions for them.
“There is limited secondary legislation supporting wellbeing and mental health at work compared to physical health,” she says. “I’m now drafting new law which does this. It will recommend assessing the risk on an organisation and individual level and look towards solutions that work for different employers based on this data, rather than legislating that everyone needs to implement the same solutions. The hope is to move towards a data driven approach which avoids taking employers down a tick box route.
New law around employers experiencing menopause symptoms
Menopause campaigners were lobbying for menopause to be added to the Equality Act’s list of protected characteristics. But this proposal was rejected because the government concluded that it could be discriminatory.
“The general consensus is that many menopause sufferers will already be protected [by the Equality Act] so it doesn’t warrant its own protected characteristic,” says Hill. “Menopause can fall under ‘disability’ so employees can ask for reasonable adjustments if they can prove it’s having a substantial impact on their ability to do their job and need the adjustments to function at the same level as their non-menopausal colleagues.”
Earlier this month Direct Line had to pay out nearly £65K to a former menopausal employee because it failed to make reasonable adjustments for her. The employee filed a constructive unfair dismissal claim which she argued breached the Equality Act 2010.
While her claims around sex and age discrimination were not upheld, her claims around being ‘disabled’ due menopausal symptoms were. The court concluded that Direct Line failed to implement eight possible reasonable adjustments that could have made a difference to the employee, and the case’s outcome.
Right to Disconnect
This is another possible law being talked about, already in force in countries like France, and campaigned for by some in the UK wellbeing industry. And it’s a topic that the Labour Party is keen to stamp its mark on and add to the political agenda, adopting it as part of its campaign manifesto (see here for more on this).
However, many experts can’t see the legislation working in the UK for cultural reasons.
McKeown, for example, says:
“The Right to Disconnect actually penalises against people with mental health issues, and women, and anyone who might work different hours to the traditional working day. I can’t see it happening.”
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Over the last 2 years we’ve seen a huge increase in the number of national and global organisations hiring ED&I professionals. This investment in ED&I is driven by a number of core factors: an increasing spotlight on corporate approaches to ED&I from policy-makers, expectations from corporate and public sector regulators, and the rise of employee activism – diverse employees raising issues of fairness and business equity – an expectation that businesses act with fairness and human kindness.
This investment in ED&I professionals is welcomed, however, effective and sustainable change will be dependent on the ways in which organisations empower this new ED&I army.
Global inclusion management company VERCIDA Consulting are gold sponsors of the DE&I Symposium, which is taking place within the MAD World Summit on 12th October. In this article, Managing Director Dan Robertson, who is opening the Symposium with his view of “The past, present and future of DE&I”, shares 6 steps organisations can take to empower ED&I professionals to drive sustainable change.
You can find out more about the fantastic speaker lineup and reserve your place at the DE&I Symposium here.
1. Set clear expectations, goals and targets
Far too often businesses start their ED&I function (I use the term function over individuals, as ED&I should be a business function and not a personally driven activity) without having a strong sense of purpose or direction. They hire-in (in-source) an ED&I professional, or a team of professionals without fully setting out clear strategic expectations of the ED&I function. To ensure ED&I professionals are empowered and that their work has value and meaning, it’s vital that business leaders determine clear business goals and a direction of travel. Without a clear and shared vision or roadmap, success will be hard to track. How do we as ED&I professionals show business value and return on human investment, aligned to areas of talent, innovation or customer insight without clear goals and business objectives?
2. Provide adequate resources
Consider this scenario: You’re planning a road trip with a group of new friends. You’re excited to start this new journey in your life. You’re promised it’s going to be a fun, if at times long and a tiring ride to reach your end point. You’re full of excitement and passion to get started. Day 1 arrives. You’re packed and everyone’s sitting in the car. Your new friends say, “off you go, drive”! Nothing. No one put any gas in the tank. You’ve stalled on day one!
Apply this situation to the role of an ED&I professional. Full of exciting ideas for making lasting change happen and yet there’s no budget to invest in the programmes and initiatives needed to drive your business goals.
For ED&I professional to be empowered, business leaders need to shout “let’s go”, with well thought-out financial and human resources. Financial resources are the allocation of adequate budgets to invest in, for example training programmes or to bring in that amazing keynote speakers, or to develop a career sponsorship programme for underrepresented talent. Additionally, ED&I professionals need human resources, that is time and energy from key stakeholders to support their ideas; this includes time and emotional support from HR colleagues, employee resource group (ERG) leads and more critically business leaders. Money alone does not facilitate the empowerment needed to create lasting change.
3. Provide a seat at (right) the table
Where you sit matters. It’s hard to have your voice heard when you are sitting at the back of the room. For ED&I professionals to feel truly valued and empowered it’s important that business leaders ensure there is a strategic communication line between the ED&I function and the CEO office. Having one’s voice moderated, edited, (and yes in some cases silenced) by HR, L&D, business executives or other functions is a sure way to disempower a community of change makers.
Organisations should ensure that ED&I professionals have structural lines of direct communication to core business functions that drive value – the R&D department, the innovation team or the customer insights team. They should be fully connected to marketing and employer branding agencies. By being so, the role becomes positioned as a central voice in organisational thinking and decision-making.
4. Give them a voice
Aligned to a seat at the table, the fully empowered ED&I professional is given licence to challenge existing ways of thinking and doing things. They, together with other voices, ERG leads for instance, are provided with a platform to call out bias and non-inclusive practices in ways which promote psychological safety.
Having a voice promotes a sense of empowerment through feelings of being valued and taken seriously by colleagues. It strengthens the psychological contract between the ED&I professional and other business stakeholders, which in turn promotes trust-based relationships and fosters collaboration through mutual respect.
5. Autonomy to drive necessary change
For ED&I professionals to feel valued and empowered business leaders and other stakeholders need to enable space for autonomous decision-making. In a highly collaborative global business environment this does not mean siloed action; rather the space to drive agreed actions, targets and goals without unnecessary interference or deliberate blockers.
Autonomous decision-making leads competent ED&I professionals to drive change with the explicit consent and support of business leaders. This support instils a sense of purpose and meaning – pride and value in the work that they do – which in turn drives self-motivation and determination through the difficult times as well as in times of success.
As the poet John Donne once said (using rather gendered tones) “no man is an island”. This sentiment holds true in the context of ED&I. As business and social change makers, whose role is to facilitate lasting and meaningful change, we cannot do it alone. Reflecting on conversations I have had with ED&I colleagues, it is clear to me that having organisational sponsors is key to our change-making actions.
Business leaders and others should take every opportunity to champion ED&I work. Talking up the important work ED&I professionals do increases feelings of belonging, value and empowerment. Forums such as Town-Hall Meeting or Team Talks provide useful platforms.
Together, the six steps above will, in the words of Baltasar Gracian, the 15th Century philosopher, “…put a grain of boldness into everything we do”
About the author
Dan Robertson is MD at VERCIDA Consulting and the Global Head of ED&I Advisory Services for Hays International. Dan is widely regarded as a global expert on workplace diversity and inclusive leadership. He has a particular expertise in the science and application of leadership decision-making and behavioural science. He spends his days supporting executives to turn diversity theory into meaningful actions through the application of global best practice. Dan has over 20 years’ experience of supporting global businesses, having worked extensively across Europe, Asia, the Middle East and North America.
He is known for his no-nonsense facilitative style supported by an expertise on the core principles and practical application of total inclusion management. Dan is currently the Chair of the Lord Mayor of London’s Power of Inclusion programme (London). He has been named by Hive Learning as a top 50 D&I leader for his work globally and locally
His publications include:
- The Long Road to Inclusivity: Published in Beyond 2015, Shaping the Future of Equality, Human Rights and Social Justice. A Collection of Essays: Equality & Diversity Research Network. (2015)
- He is a contributor to the 3rd edition of the Inclusion Nudges Guidebook. (2020)
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Menopause should be a time to thrive, not just survive. For too long, this natural process has been hidden, and mostly misunderstood. While we’ve been moving in the right direction with so much more awareness and compassion for what can be a difficult process… we still have a way to go.
With almost 8 in 10 women in menopause being in work and menopausal symptoms sometimes lasting for years, it’s inevitable that this will affect organisations. In fact, a 2019 Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) report found that three in five women going through the menopause were negatively affected at work. BUPA found that nearly 900 000 women left their jobs due to menopausal symptoms.
This puts a huge strain on workplaces, with valued and experienced employees leaving. Even where women are not leaving, symptoms can have an impact on resilience, performance and on absenteeism.
The impact of nutrition
Understanding, openness and compassion is, of course, essential here. But what if more practical support could be available, which actually helps alleviate some of these symptoms which are causing women to leave?
It doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, simple nutrition changes and habits can reduce menopause symptoms as well as increase energy levels and improve gut health, weight management and mood.
Furthermore, many of these simple changes and habits improve health overall and are fantastic to take into later life.
This is not a diet. It’s not a fad. It’s inclusive, delicious and built around each person. We all have different preferences, lifestyles, favourite cuisines, and favourite foods. Building in more healthy food will look different for everyone, but we can all get a result.
Why plant-based wholefoods can alleviate menopause symptoms
Regardless of your nutritional preferences, why do we want to eat more plant-based wholefoods in menopause to alleviate symptoms?
- We need to maintain good gut health. This affects our hormones, some of which are made in the gut. The gut affects our immunity, digestion, sleep, mental health, anxiety, focus and much more. When our gut is disrupted, it can affect all areas of our health. Good gut health means a thriving gut microbiome i.e. having lots of good gut bacteria and a diversity of these bacteria in our gut. The good bacteria feed off prebiotics in the form of fibre – which can only be found in plants. This doesn’t just mean greens. It includes grains, beans, fruit, nuts and seeds.
- Certain compounds, called phytoestrogens, are important for alleviating menopause symptoms, such as hot flashes. Many plant foods are rich in these phytoestrogens (and these compounds can only be found in plants). This includes foods like linseed/flaxeed, soy and beans.
- Plants are full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and other nutrients. This is critical for keeping our cells healthy, keeping our bodies strong and for overall performance. Eating foods high in antioxidants – plant foods – is associated with fewer menopausal symptoms.
- Plant based wholefoods help fill you up and help you maintain a healthy weight. Bulking out our plate with more fruit, vegetables and beans will help stop the cravings and can help us maintain a healthy weight..
Does it mean eating salad all day? Certainly not!
However, it is possible to alleviate menopausal symptoms by changing some habits and incorporating more healthy foods into our day.
But how do we make these changes, and how do we make them easy, tasty, filling and nourishing?
Top tips for thriving nutrition in menopause:
- Start adding more fruit and vegetables to every meal. Not only are plants very important to gut health, but they’ll make you more full and give you great nutrients.
- Eat more phytoestrogen-containing foods, such as flaxseed/linseed, edamame beans, grains and garlic. This could be as simple as adding edamame beans to your stir fry.
- Make sure you’re staying hydrated. We often forget to drink water, especially when we’re stressed, but this is key to gut health, focus and even good skin.
- Enjoy the treats and foods you love, and don’t deprive yourself. But build these around health habits. For example, if you’re a cake lover (like me!) then have that treat after a proper balanced meal. Or try one of my healthier, but still naughty tasting, cakes in my Facebook community.
- Cut back on refined sugar, alcohol and other products that could be disruptive to the gut. Nothing has to be given up completely, but a few reductions can be super helpful. And remember it’s more about what we ADD to our food habits, such as all these wonderful healthy plant foods, that has the most impact.
About the author
Vanessa Sturman helps people get rid of fatigue, get a healthy weight and never diet again using healthy habits and building in more delicious plant based wholefoods (whatever your preferences). She is a Plant Based Health Coach and Award-Winning Expert Speaker; a regular on BBC Radio and featured on Sky News, LBC, Times Radio, Metro and more. She helps organisations like Cambridge University Press with Menopause Nutrition and was recently contracted by Michigan State University to teach their future medical students how to implement healthy eating.
Her background as a Workplace Change Manager in behaviour change, plus running a plant based recipe website for five years, has made her successful at building in healthy foods to people’s lives in a fun, sustainable way that gets them results. She’s educated at Cambridge University in Social and Biological Anthropology to Masters level, and she lives and breathes healthy eating herself within her busy life.
If you want to know more about what she can do for you and your workplace, have a look at her website here. You’re welcome to join her free community full of health advice and recipes here or connect with her on LinkedIn.
Helen Willis, CFO at Costain is not your ‘typical’ CFO. She is passionate about people, and their wellbeing at work so they can thrive. She understands how intrinsically wellbeing is linked to good financial results, and wants to get ‘under the bonnet’ of her organisation to really understand how to do this, rather than sitting behind a big desk in a suit…
We caught up with her before her MAD World appearance on 12th October (if you haven’t registered yet, you still can here).
How far has workplace wellbeing come and what do you see as the barriers to progress?
A lot of progress was made through COVID-19.
We all thought differently. We thought laterally to solve problems and and we broke down preconceptions around presenteeism.
We proved that we could work remotely, which for me was a charter for real diversity because people who physically can’t get into an office, like carers, were able to work. I personally witnessed the world of work open up for my son, too, who is dyslexic and a painful introvert.
We thought more freely about how to make work work.
I’m nervous that the world seems to very quickly be forgetting all those things we learnt because our habits are so deep seated. But I’m passionate about not losing the learnings.
How do you as a company not fall back into bad habits?
We’ve talked a lot as an executive team about our working patterns. We’ve committed to hybrid working. Myself and Catherine Warbrick, Chief People and Sustainability Officer at Costain, agree that’s a really important part of our attraction and retention strategy.
Younger generations, as well as older workers, which I’d include myself in, want hybrid working because it gives them opportunities. In my case, it’s enabling me to elongate my career. Quite frankly, if I was expected to be in the office five days a week, that wouldn’t work for me.
So you’ve seen hybrid working open up your talent pool?
Absolutely. I believe you get the best out of people who appreciate that flexibility. They’ll then go above and beyond. It all links to the culture of the business.
To me hybrid working makes sense for so many different types of workers for so many reasons.
You mentioned your Chief People and Sustainability Officer – can you tell me about how you work together?
She and I work hand in glove. We’ve been driving a transformation across the business.
We’ve been looking at everything from our narrative to organisational design, working on processes and systems. We both believe that culture and people are really important and if you haven’t got those right, nothing else will work properly.
I guess I’m probably not a very ‘typical’ CFO.
How are you not a typical CFO?
CFOs traditionally have the reputation of being suited, and black and white in their thinking. They would sit behind a very large desk and make demands!
Things are changing as the CFO’s remit becomes wider and wider. Digital transformation, for example, is often in a CFO’s remit now. I see my job as to look under the bonnet of the organisation and understand whether we’ve got the right people, processes and systems.
I’m particularly passionate about the people part. You need to have people with the right skills, who are engaged, who want to succeed and feel part of a company culture where they believe they can thrive, or you won’t get the financial outcomes you want.
What about how you measure wellbeing – how satisfied are you with the current methods?
There’s a lot more for us to do.
At the moment, we do pulse checks and surveys, and so on.
But we really need to think about the value of wellbeing and how this value is measured and I don’t think we’ve nailed it when it comes to costing. That is something we all need to work towards collectively.
You described yourself earlier as an ‘older’ worker who wants different things from the workplace now. Can you tell me more about that?
I’m menopausal and feel less physically resilient, but I feel like I’m in my prime in terms of my level of experience and the intellectual approach I can bring to work challenges. So I want to be in a flexible environment which takes both into consideration.
When I was juggling kids with my career, you didn’t ever talk about your children at work, or the demands of home. That would have been seen as weakness. I’m so glad that has changed.
I’ve promised myself now that I will only ever do a job where I can be true to myself and a big part of that is being a mum, even though my kids are now in their 20s.
I want to be able to talk about what is important to me – and, yes, that is driving shareholder value in Costain, but it’s also whether my son’s going to get his next role in TV. I am able to talk about both things openly and equally at work now. And I think that’s a wonderful thing.
Helen Willis, a CFO passionate about people, will be joining us at the MAD World Summit on 12th October, along with an an impressive roster of speakers from Age UK, BAM UK&I, BBC, Belron, BITC, Britvic, Costain, Deloitte, Dentsu, EY, Goldman Sachs, Heath Foundation, Heathrow, HSBC, IBM, Ipsos, Mars, Metro Bank, Microsoft, Mind, National Grid, Novartis, Unipart, Royal Bank of Scotland, Starbucks, Village Hotels and many more.
If you haven’t booked your tickets yet, don’t miss out. You can find full details and book here.
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The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates there are currently more than 700,000 suicides a year worldwide, and for each suicide there are more than 20 suicide attempts. Every suicide is a tragedy that profoundly affects families, friends, colleagues and communities.
Although mental health remains one of the leading causes of death and disability across the world, too often in society we fail to address it, talk about it or invest in preventing it.
Attention on prevention
This Suicide Prevention Week focuses on encouraging people to talk about mental health and suicide awareness and prevention. It’s an opportunity and reminder for people to hit pause for a moment and come together to check-in on their mental health.
“Most of us would not hesitate to go to the doctor for regular tests and check-ups if we had concerns about our physical health,” says Jacobs Global Vice President of Health, Safety and Environment Paul Hendry. “But when was the last time you had a mental health check-up? We often only seek help with our mental health when we’re already in crisis.”
In 2020, Jacobs developed a free mental health check-in tool called One Million Lives to help enhance users’ understanding of their current state of mind and provide proactive strategies for personal mental health development. Available for free, the tool is accessible to everyone — no matter where they live, who they are or the organisation for which they work.
“We recognised that the lives of our employees’ family and friends can impact the day-to-day lives of our employees, so we wanted this to be a free resource for all to use and share,” continues Paul. “Our goal with One Million Lives is to break down the barriers that hinder honest conversations about mental health and encourage an open culture of support. By completing a regular check-in, people will ideally be better equipped to assess early indicators of challenges, start positive and active conversations, get support much earlier, and develop appropriate coping mechanisms and resiliency.”
UK Government’s 5-year, cross-sector strategy
To raise awareness about prioritising mental health and resilience, this week U.K. Member of Parliament (MP) Liz Twist invited Jacobs to host a drop-in session for MPs, to learn more about resources – like the free One Million Lives mental health check-in tool and other online resources – and support that charity R;pple and organisation Make A Difference Media provide.
A passionate campaigner on suicide prevention, Liz Twist says, “Every suicide is a tragedy, and most often a complex one with no single cause. However, statistics do show that middle-aged men, particularly those in the construction sector, are some of the most at risk. It was therefore encouraging to see so many colleagues attend the parliamentary drop-in session I hosted this week with Jacobs and charity R;pple and Make A Difference (MAD) to raise awareness during Suicide Prevention Week and learn more about services available to those who are struggling.”
“It has also been good to see the issues within the construction sector being recognised within the new National Suicide Prevention Strategy,” she explains. “I am pleased to see more organisations focusing on the importance of positive mental health as a step to preventing suicide and I urge colleagues and constituents of mine to look at services such as the One Million Lives app and to check-in on your mental health.”
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Building business resilience starts with creating the right culture for your workforce, according to the latest insights from independent professional services consultancy Barnett Waddingham (BW).
In-depth research by BW concludes ‘people risk’ – the financial or human risks associated with poor employee relationships – is a real and uncertain thing. Yet supporting employees to build a culture of resilience in the workforce is crucial if you want to build a robust, sustainable business that can develop and thrive.
Responsibility for organisational culture starts in the boardroom
A sustainable business built on resilience will be better able to deal with times of stress and have a sound future based on firm foundations. And it must become self-sustaining – so normal you don’t even think about it – and part of your DNA as an employer.
The responsibility for nurturing such a culture must start at the top with the board and senior executives.
Since the lockdowns of the Covid-19 pandemic, building employee resilience and, in turn, business resilience have moved up the board’s agenda. Many employees have reappraised their expectations of working life and decided to make permanent changes to their work life/balance.
One-third of workers have changed jobs up to two times in the past two years, with a further 10% changing employers between three and five times.
Research considers influence of the C-suite
We know happy and fulfilled workers are more engaged and productive – a core element of a resilient business. But how can the C-suite influence this beyond financial incentives?
BW’s research considers key issues including:
• the post-pandemic needs of employees;
• building resilience in your workforce;
• creating a strong workplace community; and
• unifying business objectives and culture through leadership.
Read the full report and access further insights for business leaders from BW at https://bit.ly/3sxGhi9