· 2 min read · News

How HR can keep women safe after work

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The issue of women’s safety in public places has been pushed into focus after the tragic death of Sarah Everard in London last month, and now businesses are pledging their support to make female employees feel safe.

To help prevent employees from being put in a vulnerable position when travelling at night, over 150 businesses from the advertising and media sector have signed up to a campaign requesting the UK government remove tax businesses pay on taxis after 9pm. 

Dan Cullen-Shute, CEO of Creature and Paul Bainsfair, director general at Institute of Practitioners in Advertising wrote an open letter to the prime minister which became the Get Home Safe campaign

Current tax law means taxis employees take home from work after 9pm are viewed as a legitimate business expense whereas taxis taken home from work before 9pm are a taxable benefit. 

This, the letter argued, disincentives employers from keeping their employees safe before 9pm.

Anne Sewell, chief people officer UK and Ireland at Dentsu International, one of the campaign’s signatories, said everyone has the right to feel safe in all public and private spaces, not least when at work and while commuting.

Sewell told HR magazine: “As employers we need to take our duty of care seriously and do all we can to ensure that everyone, in particular all women, can navigate these spaces without fear.

“We know that violence and harassment can only be solved through serious behaviour change and education.” 

A survey conducted by the University of London on 18 March, found 32% of women in the UK feel unsafe or very unsafe when walking alone in their local area at night. 

Just 13% of men expressed the same concern.

Sewell said as a large employer in the media and creative industry, Densu has an opportunity to play a positive part in these conversations and promote the importance of male allyship.

Bauer Media is another signatory of the campaign. Organisational development lead for diversity and inclusion, Simone Thomas, told HR magazine: “The expectation that women should be able to get home safe without having to trade this off against potential financial implications, should be a given.

“While broader societal factors are being addressed, it is essential that measures that help to reduce the disproportionate risk to women’s safety are readily accessible.”

Alex Hattingh, chief people officer at Employment Hero, said that employees may suffer more anxiety about their daily commutes following the pandemic too.

She said: "With restrictions set to ease next month and gradual return to office working commences, some employees may be anxious about their commutes so employers must be aware and prepared.”

Hattingh advised there are considerations to make when it comes to finding the balance between keeping employees safe and overstepping their boundaries outside of work. 

She said: “For example, if your office is in a quiet, badly lit area, you may want to look into making changes to your policy that provides more support to everyone who is part of your business. 

“A really simple way to solve this is offering flexible start and end times and remote work where possible.”