In this time where many businesses are facing immense challenges due to the coronavirus pandemic, what does responsible capitalism look like? What does the Good Business Charter and its ten components have to say on the subject? Here we offer some thoughts on this. We also hope to showcase what some of our members are doing, going way over and above the legal requirements recently introduced.
- Real living wage – this represents a fair wage for a hard day’s work. For companies currently paying below this level, to now furlough them on just 80% pay will send them into poverty, if this is not already their reality. People earning below real living wage would struggle to have any savings or buffer for situations like the coronavirus, showing why it is so important to pay a decent wage. To go over and above, organisations should give consideration to topping up to real living wage anyone furloughed who will earn less than this under the government scheme.
- Fairer hours and contracts – this component, more than any other, has come to light as putting people at huge risk. For those on zero or minimal hours contracts they will find themselves falling through the cracks of the furlough scheme. Already vulnerable on zero hours contracts they are unlikely to have savings to weather the storm and now left with no option but to go onto Universal Credit with a 5 week wait for income. For organisations that do use these contracts, we believe they should look at what the workers have earned as an average over the previous 6 months and pay them at least 80% of that to be comparable with the furlough support for other employees, and look to bring an end to these contracts going forwards.
- Employee well-being is hugely important at this time of fear, uncertainty, suffering and bereavement. Where employees have to self-isolate they should be treated with care and not expected to pay back hours taken off. Access to impartial support at this time will be more important than ever. We would hope to see care and consideration offered to workers who are trying to juggle the demands of work with childcare during the lockdown. For those organisations where employees are still working, such as supermarkets, proper attention needs to be given to ensuring they have adequate protection in terms of social distancing and personal protective equipment.
- The mechanism for ensuring employees feel represented may need to change in a situation where most employees are working from home because of the coronavirus restrictions, and due consideration should be given to this. The views of furloughed employees should also be taken into account and we would advise that important decisions that will impact them all should not be taken without their input.
- Diversity and inclusion remain important, to ensure that treatment of employees in regard to self-isolation, childcare responsibilities and decisions to furlough are applied inclusively and not seen to discriminate in any way on the grounds of gender, ethnicity or disability among others, also taking into consideration the extra risk and dangers members of BAME minorities may suffer.
- Environmental responsibility remains always of paramount importance. At this time many businesses will naturally reduce their environmental impact given reduced activity.
- Payment of fair tax has never been more important. As businesses look to the government for support, it is our strong belief that such support should only be made available to those companies who have paid their UK taxes properly and fairly. We hope the government will think twice before bailing out companies that have taken advantage of tax havens. Some companies may be offering donations at this time, such as the technology giants, but if they had paid their full taxes in the past year, this would have represented a FAR greater contribution to the nation.
- A commitment to customers at this time includes giving proper attention to current government regulations including social distancing and other measures to give adequate protection to all members of the public. For some organisations it will represent taking into account genuine fears that customers have and being clear to communicate their rights with regard to the service a company provides.
- Ethical sourcing remains a priority especially where shortages occur and companies may need to look for other suppliers to source what they need. Corners on ethical sourcing should not be cut in order to get what is needed.
- Prompt payment to suppliers is important, especially given that some suppliers may be entirely dependent on having outstanding invoices paid on time in order to survive this difficult time.
Everyone is having to adapt to the immense pressures and challenges that coronavirus is presenting. This will be a time like no other that really shines a spotlight on those businesses who act responsibly and those who prioritise profit at the expense of their employees and other stakeholders.