“If I could sum up why I’m committed to the HR Girlfriends community it would come down to because we are ‘….in this together.'”

~Sana’ Rasul, Chief Girlfriend

HR Advisor December 2022

Three Ways to Make Holidays More Inclusive

The office holiday party is a time-honored tradition: readers of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol may remember the Christmas party hosted by Ebenezer Scrooge’s old boss, Nigel Fezziwig. While the look and feel of these end-of-year holiday parties have changed since the 1840s, they remain a popular part of the American office culture.

While it’s less common today for companies to host “Christmas parties,” office festivities continue to bear the trappings of that holiday. Christmas trees, wreaths, gifts, and Santa Claus still make appearances in workplace decorations and celebrations.

Is this an issue? It depends. While some people view these symbols as more secular than religious, not everyone sees them that way. Moreover, not every person who follows a particular religion wants to see images and practices associated with their religion brought into the workplace. On the other hand, many employees welcome holiday celebrations at work that honor their own religion and those of their coworkers.

Given diverse religious views and declining rates of religiosity in the United States, employers who would like to be inclusive around the holidays may need to do more than name the year-end holiday party something neutral. Here are three steps to get you started.

1. Ask Your Employees What They Want

First and foremost, survey your employees to find out which holidays they would like to see observed and their thoughts on what observance in the workplace should look like. Observing a holiday doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll close up shop for the day, and you may want to make this clear to employees when asking for their preferences. When considering their suggestions, make sure you’re treating everyone equitably. Ending up with decorations related to some holidays but not others may be fine if that reflects everyone’s wishes, whereas allowing people of one religion but not another to take paid time off to attend a worship service could lead to claims of discrimination.

2. Celebrate Occasions Throughout the Year

Once you’ve found out how your employees want to observe and celebrate holidays, mark the company calendar. You might, for example, encourage employees to share how and why they observe certain holidays with colleagues on a general Slack channel or through a company newsletter. Allowing for time and space to talk about religious practices—both celebratory and somber—helps employees understand why a coworker may be fasting, lighting candles, praying during the workday, wearing special attire, or taking time away from work. Observing multiple holidays throughout the year also makes it less likely that an end-of-year party will feel exclusionary.

3. Keep Year-End Company Celebrations Separate from Holiday Observances

Even with ongoing observances, many of your employees may expect some sort of celebration in December. You can avoid people feeling excluded by focusing your celebration on the accomplishments of your employees and the company during the past year, rather than making it about the holidays.

Inclusion doesn’t take a break at the holidays. On the contrary, the holidays, whatever time of year, present a great opportunity to recognize, celebrate, have fun, and help make employees feel that they belong.

Four Things Employers Should Know About Pay Transparency

Have you heard about pay transparency? It’s the idea that companies should be open with employees and applicants about pay and, more broadly, what factors they include when making decisions about compensation.

It’s no secret that expectations around pay have changed, and employers need to pay attention. People on the lookout for a new opportunity want to see pay ranges on job postings, and some of them make it a practice not to apply if that information isn’t immediately available. Employees want more clarity about their own pay and how it stacks up relative to their peers, and in a tight labor market, they may hit the road or expend less effort at work if they don’t feel they’re paid fairly.

But pay transparency isn’t just about what current and would-be employees want. Their expectations have now made their way into state and local law. For a sizeable number of employers and their employees, pay transparency is no longer just a “nice-to-have.” Whether you’re in a location that’s passed a pay transparency law or are simply curious about what this new trend might mean for your businesses, here are four things you should understand.

1. Pay Transparency Is the Next Frontier of Pay Equity

The federal Equal Pay Act went into effect in 1963, but it hasn’t brought an end to pay disparities between men and women. Neither have most state laws with the same objective. Long story short: the laws weren’t strong enough, and they didn’t account for all the causes of unequal pay. In many cases, it has been possible for an employer to comply with these laws while still offering unequal pay for essentially equal work.

Often, it’s not that employers have deliberately chosen to pay women less than men for the same jobs. In many cases, the basis for pay differentials has seemed sensible, such as salary history. But it turns out that basing pay on salary history perpetuates discrimination over an employee’s career. Mindful of these facts, cities and states across the country have instituted salary history bans and implemented other legal measures to strengthen pay equality. Pay transparency laws are part of this trend.

So far at the state level, Colorado, California, and Washington have passed laws requiring that employers post pay ranges within job posting and ads, while New York is on the brink (just waiting for the governor to sign). What these laws have in common is a new requirement that certain organizations disclose pay ranges in job postings.

2. Pay Transparency Laws and Practices Encourage Employees to Talk About Their Pay

Once pay ranges are visible on job postings, everyone from job hunters to competitors to current employees can see how their own pay compares to the range offered. That information is useful to job seekers considering whether to apply and how much that type of job pays in the current market. It’s useful to competitors who may try to poach talent. And it’s useful to employees who may wonder whether they’re paid equitably for their work.

If pay ranges are too large, employees will think you’re acting in bad faith or wonder who among them makes that little or that much. If the ranges are reasonable, but you have current employees outside of those ranges, there may be gossip, organizing, confrontations, or all of the above. If the ranges are reasonable and your current employees are paid in line with what you’ve posted (phew), you still may get inquiries about how someone’s position in the range is determined.

3. Employees Have a Legal Right to Discuss Their Pay

That’s right. You may have heard about companies telling their employees not to share how much they make. Or you may have done that yourself. But that’s an engraved invitation to a lawsuit. Under federal law, employers may not prohibit non-supervisory employees from discussing their wages with one another. Likewise, employers may not in any way discipline or retaliate against an employee for discussing their wages or other terms and conditions of employment. Prohibitions of this nature infringe upon employees’ protected rights under Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). Section 7 protection includes discussions about wages, benefits, treatment by managers, facilities, safety issues, and just about anything else that two or more employees might have a stake in. In addition to rights under federal law, many employees (including supervisors) have protections under state laws that allow them to freely discuss their wages.

We strongly recommend that employers immediately eliminate any written or unwritten policy telling employees that discussion of wages is discouraged or prohibited, or that wages are confidential, and also discontinue any written or unwritten policy of disciplining or terminating employees for this behavior.

4. Pay Transparency Can Be Good for Business

Being open about pay is ultimately a boon for employers and employees alike. First, it saves everyone time and the company money. Recruiters and hiring managers waste a lot of time and energy processing applications and interviewing candidates who are destined to decline any offer because the compensation doesn’t match their expectations or fit their needs. By disclosing compensation up front, employers discourage those people from ever applying. Second, pay transparency on job postings has been shown to increase the number of applicants significantly. Many job seekers are unwilling to apply for positions that don’t indicate a range and others will value the transparency for what it says about your organization. In a tight labor market like we’re experiencing now, employers should take any leg up they can get. Third, it encourages, and makes it easier for, organizations to comply with equal pay laws. You can’t as easily put pay equity on the back burner when pay ranges are front and center.

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