Equality Of Opportunity For Everyone Commerce Essay

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Standards, values, morals and ethics have become increasingly complex in today's society where absolutes in the ways that things were done have given way to tolerance and ambiguity. This particularly affects managers within HR, where decisions will affect people's jobs and their future employment.

This reports aim is to look at the HR Policy in at Marks & Spencer's and in particular the Equal Opportunities side which the company works to. Is it fair, where they could improve if necessary or possibly not.

The statement on Marks & Spencer's website states the following;

Equality of Opportunity for Everyone

We place a lot of emphasis on developing initiatives and procedures that ensure equality of opportunity for every member of the Marks & Spencer team.

It is our policy to:

Promote a working environment free from discrimination, harassment and victimization on the basis of:

gender, sexual orientation, marital or civil partnership status, gender reassignment

race, color, nationality, ethnic or national origin,

hours of work

religious or political beliefs



M & S claim to ensure that their workers are not disadvantaged in any way by their employment policies or by their working practices unless it is justified justified as necessary for operational reasons.

They also claim to ensure that all decisions relating to employment practices are objective, free from bias, and based solely on work criteria and individual merit. This in itself can be very difficult when working with people from different walks of life and finding a solution to an individual's personal circumstances and needs within the business could be very difficult.

They also go on to say that it may be necessary to make reasonable adjustments to ensure that disabled workers or applicants are not placed at a substantial disadvantage by a practice or policy that exists at M&S. This could not always be the case because of the nature of their business and there has to be occasions when changes cannot be made because they are predominantly a customer facing organization and that aspect has to be considered at all times.

Comply with the law and communicate to our stakeholders the responsibility to protect both individuals and the company.

The Equal Opportunity Act 2010 took effect in August 2011 and is the laws that govern companies and how they take care of every individual that works for their company.

To list the full purposes of the act would be impossible, within this report but it can be accessed if needed by following the link above or in the references at the end of the report. The acts main purposes are as follows

To re-enact and extend the law relating to equal opportunity and protection against discrimination, sexual harassment and victimisation; and

To amend the Racial and Religious Tolerance Act 2001 in relation to dispute resolution; and

To make consequential amendments to the Racial and Religious Tolerance Act 2001, the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 1998 and other Acts.

The objectives of the Equal Opportunity Act 2010 are to encourage the identification and elimination of discrimination, sexual harassment and victimisation and their causes, and to promote and facilitate the progressive realisation of equality.

It states that it is against the law under the Equal Opportunity Act 2010 to discriminate against a person for their own personal characteristics listed in the Equal Opportunity Act 1995.

It is also against the law to sexually harass someone or to victimise them for speaking up about their rights, making a complaint, helping someone else make a complaint or refusing to do something that would be contrary to the Equal Opportunity Act.

You could ask the question "If the act didn't exist would a company like M & S still promote its equal opportunities program or would they be more selective in whom they employ. This argument could also be applied to many companies all over this country and also overseas.

M & S claim that its success has been built on a number of core company values that have remained almost unchanged since its earliest beginnings.

They are as follows:

Quality - Delivering excellent standards consistently.

Value - We need to deliver exceptional value to our customers.

Innovation - We need to continue to be at the forefront of innovation in both general merchandising and food.

Trust - We are the most trusted retailer. We have a proud heritage of staff welfare, customer care and involvement in the community. We want to continue to build this.

Service - is about delivering the highest standard of services to our customers.

Service, has perhaps to be the biggest influence on people at M & S. they expect everyone who works for them (no matter what role they are in) to be focused on helping the business to deliver a service people talk about. This in itself has created a set of values, which apply to all its teams.

"It's all about creating a working environment that encourages people to add to their skills, and where they're provided with everything they need to achieve their potential."

Proud - Our people are proud of the fact they work for Marks & Spencer, and of the products they work with. They take pride in everything they do.

Committed - Our people are committed to delivering great customer service.

Involved - Our people are informed of new developments and kept up-to-date with the progress of the company.

Challenged - Our people challenge each other constructively every day to ensure we all reach our full potential.

Valued - Our people are rewarded for their contribution to the business.

Fairly treated - Our people are respected and valued, whoever they are.

When reading these values it does seem that M & S are very focused on a happy workforce so that they will then be more focused on the job in hand and the customer service that the business strives to achieve.

Marks & Spencer run a scheme called BIG which stands for Business Involvement Group and there is a representative at every branch and business area and are elected by the employees. Regular meetings are held to discuss thing that are going on within the business so that this can be relayed back to the employees and equally if employees want questions raised they do so through the BIG representative. Clearly the company appear to make every effort to ensure that employees are looked after and kept up to date with the things that are going on within the business and have the opportunity to discuss and raise their concerns regarding changes.

All employees are issued with a contract and have access to the company handbook which details how the company works and what is expected of them.

M&S recognizes that, whatever job a person does or whatever level they are at, there is a need to strike a balance between work life and your home life.

So they have created a range of initiatives to help their employees do just that. They have been developed to support the employees throughout their career and many go way beyond their legal obligation as an employer.

There are a range of options for flexible working, be it part-time work, job sharing or term-time working for families. They also offer support for staff wishing to study or to take a complete break with their career break scheme of up to nine months' unpaid leave.

M&S recognizes how important family life is and the need to support working parents so that they can balance their work and family lives. Adoptive parents also get the same support as biological parents and they also gert extra support on the lead up to the adoption taking place.

With one in 6 people in the UK now having some form of caring responsibility, Marks & Spencer understands the need to support staff who need to balance their caring and working commitments.

Employees who have had at least 2 years' continuous service with M&S may request up to 9 months' unpaid career leave, for example to travel, carry out voluntary work, or cope with caring responsibilities.

Supporting the community plays a big part in most of our lives, whether we are supporting schools, health services, charities or local action groups. Marks & Spencer has always had a good relationship with the wider community from where we draw our staff and our customers.

M&S also supports its employees in lots of ways, including when they are on jury service or acting as a school governor or Justice of the Peace. Ex-service men or women and those who belong to the Armed Forces Volunteer Service can have an extra week's paid leave to go on annual training exercises, and for staff wishing to become candidates for any UK or European parliament or assembly, there is an offer of a break of up to 5 years.

Any decision is at the discretion of their line manager, and is based on operational needs as well as the employee's performance, attendance and conduct record. An employee wishing to take 3 months or more career leave has to request this type of leave 3 months prior to the desired start date. Employment will be regarded as continuous for the purposes of this leave and benefits.

However, what about the people who manufacture the products that are sold in the stores? Not everything that M & S sells is from the UK, it is sourced overseas where labour rates can be cheaper and the standard of living can sometimes be lower than it is in the UK.

This isn't to suggest that they don't look after these people any less but simply follow what has become an increasing trend to buy goods from other country's to maximise profits.

M & S have around 2,000 product suppliers in over 70 countries and they claim to be unique in labeling all its products with the country of origin. It also has local buying offices with Regional Compliance Managers in Turkey, India, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Sri Lanka and China.

In 1999 they developed a set of principles in partnership with its suppliers. These principles set down the requirements for suppliers to comply with all relevant local and national laws, particularly on: working hours and conditions, health and safety, rates of pay, terms of employment and minimum age of employment.

As its relationship with a supplier develops they expect the supplier to improve the working conditions in line with the more demanding standards promoted by the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI), a collaborative group of companies, trade unions and human rights groups set up by the Government in 1998. M&S joined the ETI in 1999.

They state on their website that they use a combination of M&S, third- party and self-audits to assess supplier performances which are logged on a shared database known as SEDEX. Results are reported in detail to the ETI and summarized in our annual How We Do Business Report.

Sedex is a not for profit membership organization dedicated to driving improvements in ethical and responsible business practices in global supply chains.

Marks & Spencer also have what is called "Plan A" which sets out achievements and goals for the company and each year they publish what they have achieved.

Plan A was launched in January 2007 and sets out 100 commitments that the business wanted to achieve in 5 years, it has since been revised to 180 to be achieved by 2015 and its ultimate goal is to become the world's most sustainable major retailer.

They work with their customers and suppliers to combat climate change, reduce waste, use sustainable raw materials, trade ethically and aim to help its customers to live a healthier lifestyle. There could be an argument that this looks good on the outside and so ultimately drives the business forward because more and more people make choices on where they shop by the way in which a business conducts itself and also in an age that is greener and where people are more aware of what is happening and the risk of being found out can force a business to be more ethical towards all employees whether they work directly for the business or indirectly.

Marks & Spencer believe that they are only as strong as the communities in which they trade and it makes good sense to be paying a fair price for the goods that they purchase from suppliers which supports local communities ensuring that the working conditions can be improved for everyone involved in its supply chains.

The FAIRTRADE Mark is one of the most recognized product certification label in the UK. But what does it actually mean?

Basically, Fairtrade helps small-scale suppliers in developing countries to invest in their communities; this can be coffee farmers or cotton farmers etc… by guaranteeing them a fair and stable price for the products which are purchased to be sold in M&S and a Fairtrade Premium for investment in community development projects.

In the Kita region of Mali, Africa, the Fairtrade Premium has been used for digging wells to provide access to clean drinking water and to build a storage facility for grain. Just by having a dry secure warehouse, the community is no longer forced to sell its excess crops, and can store vital fertilizers and seed, too. Here in the UK we are a nation of tea lovers and M&S has picked up on this and as part of its Fairtrade program have worked with a supplier in Kenya that is packed by the smallholders who grow the tea. The farmers are paid a fair price for their crop and this is helping to fund education and help to provide expert advice to the farmers which in the long term should help them to become more self sufficient.

Equal opportunities: Accessed on line 18/12/2012


Government legislation


Marks & Spencer: Accessed on line 18/12/2012