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Consider your Welfare when Choosing an Employer

  • Date: 2009/01/04 (Rev. 2016/06/13)
  • Lewis Stratton
  • Synopsis : Working for an employer that does not consider your welfare as a human being can outweigh the financial advantages.

Main Document

Working for an employer that does not consider your welfare as a human being can outweigh the financial advantages of even the best salary package. Our needs as individuals don't simply evaporate because we are paid a good salary.

Who is the employer

The employer is the organization for whom you work, but in reality your manager or supervisor is the visible face of your employer. Have you been in a situation where your work group is full of tension and unhappiness whilst another group within the organization seems to thrive on co-operation, good humor and great results? If staff from both groups were asked what they thought of the "employer" they would each give a very different account. It is hard not to be envious of a work group where they enjoy a positive and constructive work environment, if you are battling along feeling undervalued, criticized and/or ignored.

I was recently reading an article in a Human Resources forum where the author stated that "people don't leave organizations, they leave managers." This is largely true from my own observation and experiences. Sure, there are many reasons you might leave one employer other than being unhappy in the workplace, but it remains one of the big reasons for staff turnover. And if your employer (i.e. the organization as a whole) does not have policies and procedures in place to address these kinds of difficulties your life can be made miserable.

"Employee friendly" workplaces

Employee welfare is a very broad area of interest. In the best environments employers will address employee welfare in the workplace itself and also consider employee welfare in terms of the pressures you will experience outside the workplace.

Workplace issues

An employer who is genuinely interested in the welfare of employees (and consequently strengthen their productivity) should be concerned about creating a positive work environment where individuals recognize they are valued. The big ticket item here is providing a workplace free of bullying, harassment and discrimination. As an employee (or prospective employee) you might look for;

  • Clear policies and procedures relating to bullying, harassment and discrimination
  • A commitment to Equal Opportunity regardless of gender, race, marital status, pregnancy, sexuality, disability or age
  • Grievance procedures that are clear and actively implemented
  • Ongoing training and development opportunities.

Issues outside the workplace

Ideally an employer will provide as much flexibility in working arrangements consistent with operating an effective and productive business or service. For example flexible leave provisions support employees in a number of ways to fulfill their obligations and aspirations outside the workplace.

Does your employer (or prospective employer) make provision or provide support for:

  • Affordable and accessible child care
  • Flexible hours, where core working hours are defined with the freedom to start a little earlier or finish a little later in order to support family requirements, with the proviso that you work your paid hours over a period of time (e.g. 150 hours a month)
  • Working part time
  • Extended annual leave provisions. Some employers allow staff to purchase additional annual leave by earning slightly less during the year and having 2 - 4 weeks extra annual leave during the year. This can be great when you have school age children that need to be supervised during the holidays.
  • Paid and unpaid maternity leave. In many jurisdictions this provision is enshrined in legislation. Does the employer enact the requirements of the legislation with a good grace
  • Carer's leave? Many employers allow staff to utilize sick leave to care for dependents (children, elderly parents, family members with a disability)

Other supports

Many employers, particularly larger organizations, contract external counseling services which can be accessed by employees and their immediate family members. This is known as an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). Such programs would typically provide counseling for a range of issues including work issues, drug and alcohol problems and family dynamics etc. In other words, any issue that affects the employees welfare in or out of the workplace. EAP's are required in the majority of circumstances to maintain absolute confidentiality about the employee's circumstances, although they may provide a general report to the employer about the kinds of issues affecting employees generally. After all, if 10 staff are receiving counseling because of management harassment at work, it makes sense that the employer is given a "heads-up" about the problem so that they can acknowledge the human and business costs and address the issue effectively.

Some employers maintain "family friendly" or "employee welfare" components on their websites that provide relevant information and links to support services addressing needs to do with parenting, domestic violence, child abuse, health issues (for both women and men) etc.

Will you discriminate

To address employee welfare adequately, the employer should consider the employee in the context of their whole life, and not just in the workplace. Life is too short to be miserable at work and no amount of money is worth it.

I have put my money where my mouth is on this issue. In my circumstance I was with an employer who showed a collective disregard for the well-being of their employees, treating them as commodities that could be ignored, moved about or assigned to meaningless or no-win tasks. Fortunately I had the opportunity to win a short term contract with another agency where the work was absorbing and the team dynamics were excellent. Productivity, efficiency, good humor and positive relationships with colleagues were the hallmark of this new role. At the end of my contract however, I elected to stay on at a salary several thousand dollars less than my original employer was paying because I could see and feel the difference in my psychological well-being and sense of worth. No amount of money is worth being miserable!

Be discriminating - if you have that option!

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