Employers are keen to do the right thing…

The idea that corporate social responsibility (CSR) begins at home – with ethical employment policies – is catching on, according to a study by Personnel Today’s sister publication, IRS Employment Review.

The survey of 58 organisations, which together employ more than 350,000 people, found that all but three had a policy on the fair treatment of staff, but less than half had a formal policy on CSR.

Employers were divided over the extent to which corporate ethics influenced them. There was an even three-way split between those saying ethics were “at the core” of their culture, “used to frame everyday practices”, or “rarely referred to in practice”.

… but the impact of ethical employment policies remains limited

Ethical employment policies are most likely to cover the everyday treatment of employees (31 organisations), recruitment practices (28), diversity (26) and dismissal or redundancy (25). Very few organisations include outsourcing decisions, either within the UK (4) or overseas (3).

The findings also reflect employer preferences for individual consultation and communication, with more than twice as many reporting that their policies cover employee involvement (24) or performance appraisal (23) as trade union representation (11) or staff councils (10).

The survey found that ethical employment policies are usually contained in standalone documents (32 organisations), or are part of the organisation’s corporate values (28).

But employers are rarely able to put a price on corporate ethics: five organisations said that they spent up to £10,000 a year putting their policies into practice, but four said they spent up to £100,000, and one suggested an annual price tag of £250,000.

… and charity begins at home

Business involvement with community or charity work is a central part of CSR, but while many organisations are happy for employees to undertake public duties or will put up money for donations and sponsorship, their reasoning was less than charitable.

Most respondents wanted to enhance their corporate image (12 organisations), promote the business (12), or improve staff morale (12). Ten said they wanted to help others, and seven saw it as an employee development opportunity.

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