It's Time to Get Rid of Gendered Workplace Policies



In this humble HR professional's opinion, gendered workplace policies have never really needed to exist. They unnecessarily divide the workforce and can potentially cause negative legal actions. So why are so many companies still insisting on implementing and holding on to outdated language in their employment policies?


For the sake of diversity and inclusion measures, you might want to consider revamping your company's employee policies to better align with the current state of the working world - it doesn't hurt to make sure all of your bases are covered either! Not only will your policies make more sense amidst current times, but you'll find yourself better able to hold employees accountable when gender is no longer a factor.


Examples of how gendered policies fail:


Dress Code

  • Have you seen policies list out separate grooming and dress requirements for men and women? If not, you are likely luckier than most! Dress code policies are one of the biggest offenders of gendering requirements for the workplace. If your company has taken a prescriptive approach to employee outfits and grooming standards, I highly recommend you rethink this approach.

  • Imagine that your company is a large healthcare facility that employs nurses and other medical professionals. Typically, there is a certain standard of dress and grooming required for safety and health reasons. Let's say that you have a male employee come in with two inch long acrylic nails. If your policy only talks about women's nail grooming standards, this could be a problem (not that you can't hold him accountable, health and safety are obviously critical in healthcare environments!) but it could make the employee feel singled out. Even though you can likely make a case for health reasons should legal action be taken, having a policy that reflects grooming standards for ALL employees across the board will make your job as an HR professional that much easier. Speaking from personal experience, Unemployment Claim Reviewers tend to want policies to be very explicit in their content - which can absolutely be avoided by making a few key tweaks to your company's policies.

  • In one instance, I remember reviewing a dress code policy that specifically stated that women were allowed to wear jean jackets to work in the office but men were not. The reasoning was that women took care of their jean jackets and that they were often "done up" with jewels or embroidery - the manager felt that men's jean jackets were dirty and "scruffy looking". Although I can absolutely see where the logic was coming from, we decided that it was best to include grooming and neatness standards to clothes instead of providing men and women with two separate lists of what they were allowed to wear to work.


Flexible Work

  • Considering how the world of work has changed over the last few months, you likely have already reviewed your flexible workplace policies. It might be worth double checking to make sure that your company hasn't accidentally assumed gender specific reasons for approving flexible work schedules. As an example, your company may allow women to take time off to pick up or care for children but don't have allowances for men to do the same. If this is the case, you may want to adjust your policy's language to make sure that dads working for your company are allowed to work flexible schedules too. It's a great way to sell you company's benefits!


Solicitation

  • Many workplaces have specific policies in place touching on outside sales and marketing taking place at work and/or during work hours. Although most aren't typically gendered, it can be problematic when specific companies are called into question (AVON, Mary Kay, Premier, etc.) because they are typically targeted towards women. In one case, I recall being shocked when men were allowed to sell and solicit their side businesses at work when women were frequently told "don't bring your makeup sales stuff to work - it's not professional". Personally, I also don't believe it's professional for men to pitch work that they do (construction businesses, t-shirt printing, Beachbody, etc.) because it causes the same level of intrusion in the workplace.

  • If you DO want to include specific examples of what solicitation at work might look like, I highly recommend that you include examples for multiple groups so you don't inadvertently open the door for allowing one type of solicitation while banning another.

Other policies that you may want to review for gendered language include job performance, harassment, and employee dating/fraternization. Most of the time, the gendered language is unintentional and easy to fix. I typically like to take out mentions of "he/she" in policies as well - using "they" is much more inclusive and is a good way to use blanketing language to refer to all of your employees.


It might seem a little silly, but in my experience, gendered policies only serve to work against the organization. When small, inclusive changes can be made, there's no reason not to embrace them.



Need a little extra help with reviewing and updating your company's policies? ABetterHR is here to help! Give us a call, send us an email, or schedule a time to discuss your needs and how we can best help you get to your Better.


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