PEI, Ireland: Changing attitudes
PEI is an example of a private organisation with progressive and comprehensive policies on equality, diversity and dignity in the workplace.
PEI is a private commercial company headquartered in Dublin. It is a medical and surgical sales, marketing and distribution company, specialising in the fields of orthopaedics, operating room, cardiac, sleep and respiratory medicine. Founded in 1963, PEI has two other associated companies: Promed, based in Kerry, and two Wellstone Clinics, one in Kilkenny and one in Galway. Promed supplies the dental and General Practitioner market and the Wellstone Clinics provide dialysis care for patients.
At the end of November 2006, the company had a total of 70 employees, 28 men and 42 women. Five of the female workers are employed on a part-time basis. Of the 70 employees, 57 are non-management and 13 are management and senior management. The age profile of the company is as follows:
- 3 are aged under 25;
- 36 are aged between 26 and 34;
- 28 are aged between 35 and 44;
- 3 are aged between 45 and 54;
- 2 are aged over 55.
The company had a redundancy programme operating in 2006 that resulted in nine employees taking voluntary redundancy. Although PEI had been achieving increasing sales over recent yeas, their personnel costs had increased to a point where their competitiveness within the health care market was under threat. The company had too many internal support staff and not enough external sales staff.
Description of the initiative
PEI operates a code of conduct, which aims to eliminate discrimination based on ethnicity, religion, disability, age and sexual orientation. While there is no trade union presence, a number of works councils and non-departmental teams have been formed to deal with matters, such as the working environment, accommodations, canteen facilities, etc. In addition, regular company meetings are held where all employees are informed on what is happening within the company and are encouraged to ask questions and provide feedback.
Although somewhat constrained by national equality legislation, PEI has some measures targeting older workers. PEI has had a policy of seeking more mature recruits, or recruits with more experience; however, the company has found it difficult to attract older workers. The company has worked with the KWCD (Kimmage, Walkinstown, Crumlin, Drimnagh) Area Partnership to source older employees. In addition, the company gives workshops on how to prepare a CV and on interview preparation.
As part of an overall review of the organisational structure of PEI, older employees in the warehouse department are being assessed to see how they can be supported in continuing to work efficiently. This is done on a case-by-case basis in consultation with each employee. Not many people have retired at PEI; however, one woman will be retiring in the next few years. The HR Department is putting in place a retirement planning programme tailored to the employee’s needs.
There is a difference in the age profiles of sales workers and warehouse workers. Sales staff are aged between 20 and 40, and warehouse staff are aged between 30 and 50. The key concern regarding warehouse staff is that they are content, are supported and feel part of the decision-making process.
Good practice today
PEI is committed to becoming an equal opportunities employer regarding gender, age, sexual orientation, sexual harassment and ethnicity. PEI has adopted a number of policies in this regard, including a ‘dignity in the workplace’ policy and an ‘equal opportunities’ policy. The dignity in the workplace policy covers the provision of an environment free from harassment and bullying of any kind.
The aims of the policies are to indicate clearly what constitutes bullying, sexual or other harassment and to determine what action the company will take to deal with such actions. The policy is applicable to all employees (temporary, contract and personal) irrespective of length of service; and also applies to clients, visitors, suppliers and service personnel both inside and outside the workplace.
The company places specific emphasis on avoiding remarks, dress code, posters, emails or anything which may cause offence on the grounds of gender, marital status, race, religion, family status, age, sexual orientation, membership of the Travelling Community or ability. The concepts of bullying, harassment and sexual harassment are defined according to the definitions set out by the Government Task Force on the Prevention of Bullying.
The role of the equal opportunities policy is to recognise equality of opportunity for existing and potential employees, by promoting a work environment free from discrimination in the following areas: gender, marital status, family status, race, religion, sexual orientation, disability, age and membership in the Travelling Community. The policy covers all present, potential and past PEI employees up to twelve months following termination of employment.
The company aims to use recruitment, employment, training and promotion practices and policies that are free of barriers, both systemic and deliberate, that directly or indirectly discriminate against people. Training, experience and promotional opportunities are open to all employees of the company. All decisions are based on personnel skills, knowledge and attitudes required to perform the job effectively and efficiently, and to the standards required by the company.
The responsibility for the support and dissemination of the equal opportunities policy lies with all staff in PEI, but particular responsibility lies with the facilitators/team leaders who must encourage open discussion with their teams to identify and resolve problem areas. All personnel must accept their own personal responsibility for complying with the policy. This includes maintaining acceptable standards of behaviour at all times towards staff and customers alike. Personnel are encouraged to raise questions or concerns about the issue of discrimination in the workplace, and are advised to bring those issues to the attention of their facilitator or the HR team. Any personnel engaged in any form of discrimination are subject to the PEI disciplinary procedure up to and including dismissal.
The implementation procedure for this policy is as follows:
- ensure that any advertising for any job either internally or externally states ‘We are an Equal Opportunities Employer’;
- ensure that any positions advertised are open to both males and females;
- any failure to follow the Equal Opportunity policy will be dealt with under the disciplinary procedure, up to and including dismissal;
- all personnel should be encouraged to use the company grievance procedure if they feel they have been treated unfairly in terms of access to employment;
- all employees involved in making recruitment decisions will be aware of their equal opportunity responsibilities;
- all position descriptions will be prepared outlining requirements that are essential and those that are desirable;
- all personnel records will be kept for at least one year post employment.
PEI also runs a programme promoting the well-being of all employees. This programme covers a whole range of health, beauty and leisure activities including health promotion. A camera club was due to be set up in June 2007. The camera club is run by one of the older warehouse employees.