Arrangements for working parents in the UK are not as generous as those of European competitors. In those countries statutory paternity leave and parental leave are not the novelty they are in the UK and have been in place for a number of years, and they are also offered with some pay. Childcare provision is better too.
However, when it comes to formal equal opportunities policies as a whole, UK employers are keeping pace with, and even overtaking, other European organisations. Nine out of 10 UK employers have a written equality policy. Only Swedish employers are more systematic in this area, and they are obliged to do so by law.
Interestingly, French employers who are bound by one of the earliest attempts to establish workplace equality between men and women, including an annual equality plan, clearly have little pressure put on them to comply.
But also countries generally associated with an active commitment to workplace equality, such as the other Nordic economies, are usually much less likely to do this in a framework of written equality policies.
UK organisations are also more likely than employers in most other European countries to include sex, race and disability discrimination in their formal equality policies. Elsewhere such policies are more likely to focus exclusively on gender. Why such differences?
The UK approach reflects closer links with the US tradition in that race is covered as opposed to only gender inequality. And, as in the US, apart from equality law, employment statute is comparatively minimal. The absence of strong legislation in the field of dismissal, trade union rights or statutorily enforced collective bargaining has made equality of opportunity litigation and awareness much greater.
The Cranet Survey on International Strategic Human Resource Management is an independent comparative study coordinated by Cranfield School of Management. It is conducted by a network of 30 business schools globally. In the 1999-2000 round of the survey, 4,500 organisations in western and central Europe with 200 or more employees responded. For more information, contact Sarah Atterbury on 01234 751122, [email protected]