Kiwi consumers and job seekers are now more easily able to identify businesses that treat their employees ethically, responsibly, and fairly. Launched on May 6, Walk Ethical is the first accreditation programme in New Zealand for businesses to show their commitment to positive, people-focused, ethical employment practices. Businesses that meet the Walk Ethical standard will receive an emblem that can be displayed on all internal and external communications, allowing them to demonstrate how important their employees and best employment practices are to them.
According to Walk Ethical founder Thai-Anh Cooper, it is becoming more and more important that companies have a conscience and that includes being a fair, responsible employer.
“Growing numbers of consumers want to know that the businesses they’re dealing with are behaving ethically – in every area. According to the 2019 Colmar Brunton Better Futures Report, 90% of Kiwis would stop buying a company’s products or services if they knew the business operator was irresponsible or unethical,” she says.
“I have been approached by so many businesses that are worried they might not be doing the right thing in terms of employment law – or they have a high staff turnover and don’t know why. It shows that there is a real need for a programme that helps companies navigate their way through their obligations and provides guidance on how to become an outstanding employer.”
As well as setting businesses up for success and creating happier employees and customers, Thai-Anh believes that the programme could save companies millions in employment law fines.
“Many people don’t set out to breach employment laws,” she explains. “In fact, they often don’t realise that law changes have been made until they are issued with a penalty. Unfortunately, even one hefty fine can mean a business, particularly a SME, is forced to close its doors as they just don’t have the funds to pay it.”
“A good case in point is the Employment Relations Amendment Act 2018, which came into effect on May 6. This includes a number of changes, including the fact that only businesses with less than 20 employees will be able to use the 90-day trial period. I expect that we will see a significant spike in fines as business owners are caught out. Being part of the Walk Ethical accreditation programme will mean they are kept up to speed on any law changes, as they make a pledge to lead the way as ethical, responsible, trustworthy businesses.”
Walk Ethical recognises that every employer’s ethical journey is different. Support and educational requirements will vary depending on the company and the stage they’re at in that journey. That is why there are three levels to the accreditation program: Bronze, Silver and Gold. Each level requires that businesses meet certain standards in order to be accredited.
Membership benefits include regular updates on employment legislation and cases, practical advice on best employment practices and webinar sessions. It also includes a business listing in Walk Ethical communications, which will help conscious consumers and employees identify and do business with companies that have committed to being an ethical employer. The Walk Ethical Silver and Gold levels include detailed reports on how staff view the business and how engaged they are, along with a comprehensive review of their employment practices.
The Walk Ethical program hopes to change the employment space by educating and setting Kiwi employers up for success while recognizing and celebrating the amazing ethical employers that are operating in New Zealand. More information on Walk Ethical can be found at walkethical.co.nz