Winners 2023

Best diversity and inclusivity initiative

Creating a fairer world for colleagues
A co-operative journey to creating inclusive workplaces

In 2022, Co-op released a suite of new and refreshed policies for its 57,000 colleagues working across its food, funeral care, insurance and legal services businesses. These policies, which range from support for menopause, fertility treatment and bereavement, also included a nine-point plan to tackle social mobility and smash the class ceiling.

The policies were built on colleague insight and co-created with industry bodies to ensure that they were genuinely market-leading to create an inclusive workplace and deliver on the Co-op’s vision to create a fairer world for colleagues, within its businesses and beyond.

But Co-op needed to inform colleagues about the new policies and the support that was now available to them. It also wanted to highlight this initiative to persuade other organisations to adopt similar policies and, in effect, drive change across other industries.

It embarked on a multi-tiered approach internally, connecting with more than 4,500 managers to demonstrate the new support available for their colleagues and how it could be accessed. Time was spent helping managers and colleagues understand what each policy meant for them. Senior executives, managing directors and the group CEO Shirine Khoury-Haq were also briefed.

One example of Co-op’s new policies is greater flexibility for paid leave for bereavement, at the manager’s discretion, while officially allowing colleagues to take up to ten days’ paid leave, regardless of their relationship to the person who has died. There is also specific bereavement support relating to terminal illness, recognising the impact of preparatory grief.

This was developed after insight from research company YouGov found that 62 per cent of employees believe bereavement should be treated as a workplace issue. Co-op has also made new resources available, developed in partnership with charity Cruse Bereavement Support, including practical guides on how to talk to somebody who is bereaved.

Like its other industry-leading policies, Co-op proactively worked with industry bodies and unions to communicate that all its people policies, managers’ guides and training materials would be made available for other organisations to implement and follow suit.

An extensive media campaign shared colleagues’ stories, demonstrating how each new policy would make a difference to their lives. These were also shared internally.

As each policy launched, Co-op engaged with national print and broadcast media to highlight the initiative, providing access to exclusive interviews with its head of people and inclusion, colleagues and industry and charity spokespeople.

In October 2022, Co-op announced that staff would be offered paid leave for fertility treatments, including surrogacy. Such leave is flexible and unrestricted, while partners are offered paid leave to attend up to ten fertility treatments per cycle, and up to three cycles. The announcement was accompanied by an interview with its chief executive in which she shared her fertility treatment story.

Its policies have attracted more than 1,300 items of coverage, including two slots on BBC Breakfast and Sky News Breakfast with Kay Burley. The judges were impressed with the ‘tangible actions and initiatives that were brought to life for the benefit of colleagues, reputation and leadership profile’, and by a CEO ‘who talked the walk’.