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Workplace Harassment and Pay Equity Remain Top of Mind for Employers

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Employers are keenly focused on preventing harassment and pay inequality in the second year of the #MeToo movement, according to The Littler Annual Employer Survey.

The survey of 1,331 in-house counsel, human resources professionals and C-suite executives revealed that calls for workplace equality extending to include equal pay, sexual harassment and gender pay equity are key areas of focus for companies.

Compared to last year’s survey, employers are taking greater action across the board to curb sexual harassment in their workplaces. This includes providing additional training to supervisors and/or employees (63% in the 2019 survey, up from 55% in 2018), updating HR policies or handbooks (51% in 2019, up from 38% in 2018) and more proactively addressing complaints and potential misconduct (37% in 2019, up from 29% in 2018).

“#MeToo has touched every industry imaginable; it impacts all types of companies, large or small, high profile or even no profile,” said Helene Wasserman, co-chair of Littler’s Litigation and Trials Practice Group. “The survey data shows that most companies are taking this issue seriously and are focused on providing training and updating policies and procedures to ensure employees are treated fairly and feel safe in the workplace.”

In addition, most employers are taking action to address gender pay equity, with 48% auditing salary data and pay practices and 24% revising hiring practices, including updating applications and job descriptions or ceasing to ask candidates for prior salaries. Still, more than a third (37%) report having made no changes to address pay inequality, which may lead to legal and reputational risks as more and more states contemplate pay equity statutes and with rising public expectations of equality and fair pay for all employees.

Respondents’ expectations of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) enforcement priorities over the next year reinforce the prominence of these issues. The top three areas where an increase in workplace discrimination claims is expected are harassment claims (61%), retaliation against employees who file discrimination or harassment claims (49%) and equal pay (47%).

AI and Data Analytics Bring New Opportunities, Challenges
The survey findings show that companies are starting to use robotics, artificial intelligence (AI) and analytics to boost efficiency and improve performance, but few are seizing on the full range of opportunities presented by these emerging technologies, nor are they sufficiently preparing for the impact on the workforce.

Screening résumés or applications was the most commonly cited use of AI or analytical tools in recruiting and hiring, by 25% of respondents. However, 63% are not currently using AI-based tools in recruiting and hiring, suggesting that there is far more potential for employers to leverage AI to support workforce management decisions.

“HR is ripe for the implementation of AI-based tools, given that companies have troves of existing data surrounding job postings, applications, promotions and other decisions to train algorithms,” said Aaron Crews, Littler’s chief data analytics officer. “While the use of AI in recruiting and hiring is in its early stages, more and more companies are realizing the significant benefits technology brings to augment HR departments and support more informed decision making.”

Similarly, most employers are taking some steps to prepare for the impact of robotics, AI and automation on the workplace and workforce. The most common actions are identifying tasks that could be automated (37%) and hiring employees skilled in emerging technologies (22%). However, the 46% that have not taken any action in this area indicates that there is work to be done. Truly preparing for the sweeping changes ahead will require a deeper evolution in the way companies approach talent planning and job training.


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