How can People & Culture shape and deliver your ESG agenda?

It doesn’t seem long since the last Conference of the Parties (COP 26) yet last week the heads of state gathered again to make renewed promises about climate change.  But how can organisations and particularly the People & Culture (Human Resources) function get behind initiatives that support your organisation’s ESG (environmental, social and governance) strategy?

So, what is an ESG strategy and why do you need one?   An ESG strategy is your plan and framework to progress towards reaching sustainability goals.  It will include the initiatives and the actions you will take as well as the quantitative information that measures the value you’re getting back for your efforts.  It can benefit you in the following ways:

  • Keeping up with comparators: This is a key factor in staying competitive and relevant within your sector and keeps you in step with or ahead of your competitors.
  • Aligning with stakeholder interests: An ESG strategy gives stakeholders (shareholders, donors) an objective way to measure improvements in each fundamental area of the plan, showing them that they’re investing their money in the right place.
  • Preparing for long-term success: Leaders want their businesses to be successful for years to come.  An ESG plan is an important part of the vision to ensure a long-term future.

Here are some starter questions:-

Purpose:  Ask the question why are you doing it?  What is your time horizon and how are you going to measure success?

Governance: How will your board enable, support and oversee your ESG strategy?

Leadership & Management:  How will you attract and develop your internal / external talent?  How will you organise yourselves internally to deliver the strategy?

Culture:  How do you support your people to get the right mindset, culture and behaviours?

HR professionals can play a critical role in shaping and delivering their organisations’ ESG strategy – and help those companies address their skills gap in the process.


The growing number and severity of climate change events has spurred international commitments to curb the rise in global temperatures. Those commitments by governments are increasingly being reflected in policy and legislation.

On a micro level, companies adopting forward-thinking hybrid working practices, better travel policies and mitigating reputational risks arising from the green agenda, means they are contributing to supporting climate sustainability goals.  HR professionals can play a pivotal role in facilitating and enabling behavioural and cultural change by leading on practical environmental policies to cut an organisation’s carbon footprint.


This aspect looks at how organisations manage their relationships with its customers, suppliers, employees and the communities in which it operates with regards to equality, diversity and inclusion.  This might include carrying out equal pay audits, your approach to modern slavery and ensuring your supply chain as well as your clients or beneficiaries adhere to the same values.

The people & culture experts can also develop and deliver development programmes, reciprocal mentoring schemes, executive coaching and leadership that provide opportunities across all aspects of the organisation’s stakeholders.


Governance encompasses the various mechanisms within an organisation relating to its management and decision-making, generally led by its board and executive team.

Your people & culture function can play an important role here by driving accountability and transparency and aligning the business with its purpose and values. Impactful organisational structure and leadership can lead to better employee relations, reduced risks and create better productivity.

HR professionals can support the board in pay reporting and audits, recruitment and succession planning, provide guidance on the ethical use of new technologies, such as where AI (artificial intelligence) is used in processing applicant CVs, as well support the selection of pension providers.

Is ESG the differentiator?

Yes, candidates are interested and increasingly scrutinising prospective employers’ approach to environmental measures, pay equality, and hybrid working practises.   Communicating to potential candidates how your company does this well may be a deciding factor in securing the people you want in your business.

If your organisation wants to know more about ESG and how it can help your business please contact Hafton for a free consultation at info@haftonconsultancy.com  giving your name, business and contact number.


Is virtual collaboration the new norm?

Today we have greater control over where and when we work.  As our businesses spread across the world and technology makes it easy to do our jobs from anywhere there’s wi-fi, more of us have the option to ‘go remote’.   Businesses whether large corporates or small to medium-sized businesses are getting better at allowing more flexible working practices helped by the recent flexible working legislation.   But are we any good at managing the virtual collaboration environment?

Whether you’re calling in from a home office every day or one of your team members occasionally logs in from the quiet car on a train, distance can make collaboration more difficult.  Remote work gives teams flexibility and options, but when you’re not face-to-face with colleagues, it’s difficult to set and manage expectations, deal with inevitable tech glitches, keep your people (and yourself) motivated and engaged, and infuse warmth and personality into the blunt communication tools you’re using.

Harvard have produced a series of guides called The Virtual Manager Collection which give you the solutions you need to be productive, whether you’re managing a team, a project, or just your own work.   The guide is a three-volume set and includes :

  • Virtual Collaboration,
  • Running Virtual Meetings, and
  • Leading Virtual Teams.

The volumes cover a wide variety of tips and strategies such as:

  • Getting your technology up and running—and keeping it there
  • Building and maintaining relationships from afar
  • Communicating well through a variety of media
  • Running productive virtual meetings
  • Setting and managing expectations for your work
  • Leading geographically dispersed teams

If you would like to get further advice about how to manage a virtual team, work more effectively remotely or would simply like reassurance about your current employment practice, please get in touch.   Please also have a look previous blogs from Hafton on related matters:-


Should you give support and guidance to your staff on financial matters?

Employers are making clear strides when it comes to caring for the physical health of their staff members, but what about their financial health support?

At a time when employees are struggling financially, and the top talent is in higher demand than ever, it’s important that employers work to help their employees with their financial health.  By ignoring this aspect of employees’ wellbeing, they risk losing them to competitors and fail to deliver a holistic strategy.

A recent report by UK Employee Benefits Watch, based on 450 UK employers representing approximately 1.8 million employees, reveals that more than two-thirds of UK employers are failing to provide the financial support and guidance required by employees in the workplace.  Most employers now have pension schemes in place, thanks to the auto-enrolment provisions, but there is little focus on addressing employees’ short and medium-term financial needs.

Providing adequate financial guidance is not only important for employees but is also beneficial for employers, because it means that by nurturing your biggest competitive advantage, they are not hampered by the myriad effects of poor financial health.

If you would like to get further advice about how and when to turn to for financial advice for your employees please get in touch.   We’d love to hear from you and signpost you to some renowned providers.


The return of “presenteeism”?

Back in 2016, a secretary at the global accountancy firm, PWC, was sent home from work after refusing to wear high heels in line with the company’s dress code.  It was a much publicised case.

Now, the Government Equalities Office have released their latest guidance on the issue of workplace dress codes entitled “Dress codes and sex discrimination – what you need to know.

The guidance is a direct response to requests made earlier this year by both the Women and Equalities and Petitions Select Committees and provides best practice recommendations for enforcing dress code policies.

Amongst the main takeaways from the guidance is that whilst dress code policies remain lawful, they should not be constructed in a way that disadvantages one employee over another. Additionally, whilst dress codes for male and female employees do not have to be identical, the standards imposed should be equivalent and any less favourable treatment on account of gender runs the risk of direct discrimination. To mitigate the risk organisations are urged to avoid gender specific requirements altogether explaining that requiring female staff to wear high heels, make-up or have manicured nails is likely to be unlawful, providing there is no equivalent requirement for men.

Employers are also encouraged to consider if there is a valid business reason for enforcing a specific dress code and if this is truly required to achieve a legitimate business aim. For example, employers in formal settings who wish for their staff to dress smart can reasonably achieve this aim without requiring female employees to wear high heeled shoes.

In other notable points, the guidance recommends that dress codes should:

  • Not be a source of harassment at the hands of colleagues of customers
  • Take into account relevant health & safety requirements
  • Allow for reasonable adjustments under the Equality Act 2010
  • Allow transgender staff to dress in line with their gender identity
  • Allow flexibility around religious symbols and jewellery

Whilst this guidance does little to alter the laws surrounding dress codes, organisations would be wise to consider its recommendations that many commonly enforced requirements either ‘could’ or ‘may’ be considered unlawful should a case ever be taken to an employment tribunal.  Moreover, this guidance adds further weight to the governments ongoing efforts to address workplace inequality which includes gender pay gap reporting and the promotion of shared parental leave.

Please get in touch if you’d like to discuss issues around dress code or talk about any challenges you are facing. We’d be delighted to help you.


The Art of Nudging

Normally when you tell people what they need to do, they ignore it or rebel against it.

So how can you influence people to take action? Well, you can nudge them. Nudge theory has been around for a while and has been much written about including Richard Thaler’s book, Nudge, published in 2008. At its core is the premise that people will respond to indirect suggestions and reinforcements so influencing their behaviour and decisions in a positive direction.

In recent years we have seen government initiatives use this theory, with a view of improving social outcomes. For example, the pensions auto-enrolment scheme and Making Tax Digital (MTD), are both based on persuading individuals to take positive action. So you have to act to ‘opt out’ rather than actively ‘opt in’.

A recent CIPD report “Our Minds at Work: The Behavioural Science of HR” argues that the HR professional and management could benefit from using the power of the ‘nudge theory’ based on what and how people are thinking rather than focussing on policy and procedures.

So how should you think about making a good nudge initiative? Ideally it should follow the EAST acronym. Easy, Attractive, Social and Timely. You also need to make the most of a number of human traits:-
• Inertia: Situations where people are lazy and stick with the default option such as organ donation. The government plans to bring in an automatic opt-in from spring 2020.
• Social Pressure: We are social beings, so we tend to follow if the majority of others have taken a certain action. We believe they can’t all be wrong!
• Immediacy of events: After major events like floods and storm damage, people tend to forget very quickly about updating their insurance.
• Framing: How a proposition is put to us is important. If you tell people 10% of people who had this operation needed further treatment within five years, they will probably react with alarm. However, if you present the same information that 90% of people needed no further treatment after five years, they might go into the operating theatre in a better mind-set.

Anyone involved in management or human resources will need to consider how people think and what influences their behaviour. Creating policies and telling staff what they should and shouldn’t do is unlikely to have the desired effect. On the other hand, identifying what will persuade them to buy into increasing their pension contributions, taking up company benefits, joining in the in-house welfare initiatives will make sure that these interventions succeed rather than fall by the wayside.

If you believe your organisation could benefit from some insights into “nudging” or you wish to discuss how to frame some of your organisation’s initiatives then please get in touch with Hafton by giving us a call or email us at info@haftonconsultancy.com.


What will happen to your talent after Brexit?

Yes, we are all fed up with hearing about Brexit, but while all the bluster has been going on, nine months have passed since the government published its long-term proposals for post-Brexit immigration. Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development (CIPD) research found that 58% of employers had either not heard of the UK’s future skills-based immigration system or had no knowledge of its contents.

The main principles in the proposal are that: –

  • skilled workers will have to be sponsored by an employer;
  • there’s a suggested minimum salary threshold of £30,000 per annum;
  • no limit  to the overall  number of visas issued;
  • there is likely to be a transitional system allowing temporary workers scheme to come to UK without a job offer for up to 12 months at a time.

The Government has faced criticism because these proposals are all geared to higher-skilled workers whereas a large number of employers, relying on EU citizens to take up minimum wage roles, can expect significant change. The hospitality and travel sector as well as caring professions can expect to be widely affected.

Another challenge to watch out for is that currently EU citizens make up one in eight of the UK workforce. According to official figures, more than half a million EU citizens applied to the EU Settlement Scheme last month, which has renewed concerns over the growing backlog of applications from European employees looking to stay in the country after Brexit.

Recent figures reveal that there will be a backlog of applications totalling 275,500 at the end of September which could cause problems with the current Brexit deadline current still set for 31 October.

So, is there anything you can do as an employer to protect yourself?

  • Carry out a ‘late’ risk assessment of your workforce / roles to be filled
  • Ensure your current employees feel valued and speak to them directly about the challenges
  • Support them with any settlement visas applications.

Hafton partners with immigration lawyers who can offer support with legal aspects of the EU settled status or any or other aspects of moving to the UK. If you believe your organisation would benefit from further advice please get in touch with Hafton by giving us a call or email us at info@haftonconsultancy.com.

One of Hafton’s clients has offered financial support to their employees applying for EU settlement status, asking them to give a guarantee that they will stay for an agreed period.


Does your organisation believe it pays its staff fairly for their contribution?

It’s surprising that 75% of HR respondents to a survey about pay feel that staff are paid fairly whereas only 33% of all workers have that view.  Or is it?  Maybe management and HR professionals are out of touch?

The reward management survey by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) found that less than 40% of employers had carried out a fair pay audit in the last three years. Line managers can play an important role by explaining the organisation’s pay policies and this relies on the HR function making sure that line managers are on board.  In some cases, it could be just a question of having improved communications about pay and supporting managers to have improved communication around pay.

Here are some of the top tips from the CIPD for employers about helping improve real and perceived fairness around pay. Ensure staff know what they need to do to get a pay rise.  According to the research less than half of employees know how to do this.

These top tips include:-

  • audit actual pay outcomes
  • ensure you pay a liveable wage
  • ensure that staff know what they need to do to get a pay rise

Management and HR teams can do a lot to manage perceptions around fair pay.  For example, they can

  • seek the views of employees and shareholders/trustees to agree on what ‘fair looks like’,
  • make sure staff understand what the organisation expects of them, why it wants it and how the organisation will reward and recognise their efforts.
  • support managers to have meaningful conversations with their teams about the fairness of pay outcomes.

If you believe your organisation would benefit from further advice about fairness around pay please get in touch with Hafton by giving us a call or emailing us at info@haftonconsultancy.com.


Never mind the gender pay gap – what about the ethnicity pay gap?

We know that a number of organisations are still not publishing their gender pay gap despite legislation being in place since 2017.  However, it seems there is some progress being made in the gender pay arena.  Incidentally, the Equality Act 2010 (Gender Pay Gap Information) Regulations 2017 apply to private and voluntary-sector organisations with 250 or more employees so there are many organisations with less than 250 employees who are under the radar.  In a similar vein some companies have committed to publishing their ethnicity pay gap and the government is considering making this mandatory too.

Remember back in November 2017 when the BBC first published its pay gap data?  There were some shocking differences between male and female presenters, yet far less attention was paid to the gap between white and BAME (Black and Minority Ethnic) staff.  The figures showed that the highest-earning man was paid over £2m per annum compared to the highest paid woman (c £500,000).  That compares to the highest paid BAME presenter earning £300,000 and the highest paid BAME female presenter earning £250,000.   The differences in the BBC pay levels indicates that there is a wide ethnicity gap which need to be addressed as vigorously as the gender gap.

Carrie Gracie, the China Editor for the BBC, won a pay-out of £280,000 which she donated to the Fawcett Society which campaigns for women’s rights.  Just recently Samira Ahmed also won her case, which has not been announced yet when she claimed she was out of pocket to the tune of £700,000 because of the difference in pay between her and Jeremy Vine.

But is this just an issue for the BBC?  Research shows that it is similar across other sectors and industries.   So maybe the better question is why?  Part of the answer lies in the fact stereotypical roles for women are paid less and BAME men are more likely to be occupying female dominated roles such as care or service roles.

If you believe your organisation would benefit from further advice about fairness and equality around pay please get in touch with Hafton by emailing us at info@haftonconsultancy.com.


And now for some good news . . .

Yes, there is a faint glimmer of hope for businesses on the horizon.   An announcement which came out last week about IR35 legislation (the rollout of changes to private sector off-payroll rules) and the enforcement of gender gap reporting will be delayed for the time-being. Both of these changes weredue tomorrow on 1 April 2020.

Just a quick reminder about what this news means for employers.


So what is IR35?  IR35 is a term used to describe two sets of tax legislation thatare designed to combat tax avoidance by workers, and the firms hiring them.  The latter are companies who are supplying their services to clients via an intermediary, such as a limited company, but who would be an employee if the intermediary was not used.

The Government had intended to introduce the rollout this year to the private sector having done so across the public sector in the UK.

In short, IR35 involves applying three main principles to determine employment status.  These are known as the principal ‘tests of employment’:

Control:  What degree of control does the client have over what, how, when and where the worker completes the work

Substitution:  is personal service by the worker required, or can the worker send a substitute in their place?

Mutuality of Obligation:  This is a concept where the employer is obliged to offer work, and the worker is obligated to accept it.

However, our advice is that you should check your workforce contracts to see how many fall foul of these principles.  Now is a good time to do a review and assess the outcome for your business.

Gender gap reporting

The Government Equalities Office (GEO) said it had decided to suspend enforcement of the gender pay gap deadlines this year in the wake of the challenge presented to employers by coronavirus, meaning it will not investigate any employers failing to report their pay gap.

While employers will not be obliged to publish their gender pay gaps this year, the Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development (CIPD) recommends and encourages all businesses that are able to submit their data, should do so.

Again, this is a good opportunity if you have additional capacity in your business because of the changes in circumstances, to prepare and assess your gender pay gap if any.

If you would like to find out more or have any questions please get in touch with Hafton by giving us a call or emailing us at info@haftonconsultancy.com.


Remember Brexit?

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, many businesses, and particularly HR professionals were pre-occupied with sorting Brexit and grappling with the new points–based system on immigration.  While there are rumours that Brexit deadline of January 2021 might be delayed, HR cannot rely on any further hold ups, and will need to prepare and act, even if for one hire from the EU or beyond next year.

On the positive side it gives organisations, and particularly HR, the opportunity to design agile and flexible work approaches around the needs of its employees.  The focus will need to be on workforce planning.

Under the proposed scheme overseas workers who want to come to the UK after free movement ends on 31 December 2020 will have to meet certain criteria (or 70 points).

Here are the two tests which are set out below:-

There will, of course, be some winners and losers in the economy.  For example, the IT industry is likely to be one of the ‘winners’ with their higher paid roles which require specific specialised skills.  Other sectors such as hospitality, social care, food production and agriculture may now face further problems with their lower paid workforce.

So what can you do to prepare?  If you haven’t done so already the first step will be to confirm who in your workforce will need settled status through the EU Settlement Scheme.  You might want to support them by contributing all, or some of the cost.

In the longer term ensuring you have a good pipeline of talented and engaged staff it will be of vital importance. Have you done any analysis to identify the skills you will need in the future?  Can you re-deploy some of your employees to other areas of your business?

If you would like to have a confidential chat or have any immediate questions please get in touch with Hafton by giving us a call or emailing us at info@haftonconsultancy.com.