HR must do more to promote employment rights to staff

HR must stop being “squeamish” about promoting employment rights to their staff and ensure all employees have the necessary information, a think-tank has said.

The Fair Treatment at Work Report, published by the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) on Tuesday, revealed that 22% of more than 4,010 workers surveyed still did not feel they knew their employment rights – including working hours, the national minimum wage, and holiday entitlements.

Nearly one-third of workers had experienced an employment rights problem in the last five years.

Stephen Overell, associate director of the Work Foundation, told Personnel Today that “HR had a job to do about informing workers about rights” and said if functions freely gave information about employment rights it could help to build trust in the profession.

He said: “Arguably, HR professionals are a bit squeamish about raising awareness around rights because they sense, not unreasonably, that the more people know, the more they are likely to use those rights.

“Overcoming this suspicion is an element of building trust in the HR profession. Ensuring people know their rights is a simple, straightforward bit of good that HR can do that is more practically useful than creating stacks of new policies and procedures covering every eventuality under the sun.”

He added it was important that HR functions supplied staff with information, in particular on bullying helplines, employee assistance programme (EAP) providers, and independent sources of advice.

Vanessa Robinson, head of HR practice development at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, said she did not believe HR was shying away from publicising employment rights.

But, she added: “Frequent reminders and refreshers are absolutely important, and HR should be facilitating those or working with line managers to do that.”

The use of group discussions on employment rights and sounding boards such as ‘ask HR an question’ would enable employees to feel they could raise any queries they might have, Robinson said.

Jo Stubbs, XpertHR employment law editor, added: “In our experience, many HR functions recognise that it’s in their best interests to ensure that information about employment rights is disseminated throughout their organisation.”

She said HR should ensure line managers have an understanding of the law so they can answer employment rights queries from their teams.

The report also found:

  • Parental rights and the 48-hour Working Time Regulations were the least well-known employment rights
  • Those with more than one job were 99% more likely to report bullying and harassment, while those with less than one year of service were up to 130% more likely.
  • 18% of those who report an employment rights problem leave their employer as a direct result.

XpertHR line manager briefing section provides written briefings on employment law for line managers, including guidance on parental leave rights and flexible working.

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