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Human Rights, Marriage Equality, HR & Good Business Practice

Human Rights, Marriage Equality, HR & Good Business Practice

I have asked myself:  Does the marriage equality survey have anything to do with us as HR, or HR Development professionals?  Yes, it does.  Over 800 organisations have publicly supported marriage equality.  Their stance could be driven by a sense of justice, or perhaps because they believe it is in their business interest to be seen as fair, progressive and inclusive.  See the February Deloitte Study: Missing out – the business case for diversity

This article and the 2 references gives HR practitioners information they could use in positioning themselves and their organisations as early adopters of what is fair and inevitable.  They will of course offend people who hold the view that their rights are being compromised if people of the same gender marry.

The majority of people have a “live and let live” position, however change always requires active support.

“What was All the Fuss About?
On reflecting on my long career in HR, especially my recruitment practice, I realised that at every stage when a progressive change was mooted by early adopters, it was at first strongly opposed by late adopters.

However, once these became law or organisation policy, they are quickly accepted by most people and one is left wondering what the fuss was about.

e.g. The world did not end when women got the vote or when it organisations brought in anti-discrimination policies.

3 Reasons Fairness and Human Rights Matter to Business and Government Organisations
Let’s set aside any moral arguments as these are less effective than making a business case for being seen as progressive:

  1. Diverse and open organisations attract a wider range of talent and customers.
  2. Organisations that openly flout employment legislation, run the risk of getting fined, or worse.
  3. Being slow to embrace progressive changes can result in poor publicity.  On the other hand, ones that are early adopters of fairness are seen as “good” by their employees and the general public.

The Role of HR – Much has Already been Achieved
The arc of HR practice over time has been inclined towards fairness.  HR practitioners have had a positive influence in these achievements over the past 50 years:

  • Female teachers not being fired upon getting married.
  • Women are in more senior and professional roles.  (Still a way to go of course.  E.g. How many women fire fighters do you know?)
  • Organisations no longer discriminate based on religious belief.  (There is probably one exception, but people are much better at hiding prejudice these days.)
  • Much less racial, disability, or sexual orientation discrimination.
  • Less overt age discrimination.

Marriage Equality & HR
There is a business case for organisations supporting marriage equality.  It helps organisations such as Myer, Apple, Adecco and Commonwealth Bank to be more attractive to the majority of their employees and customers.  See “The Market of Virtue, Why Companies like Qantas are campaigning for marriage equality” by Prof Carl Rhodes.

40% of young people are attracted to organisations who support marriage equality.

They are the future and are on the increase.  It is only a matter of time before there are enough of them to force Australian Governments to join all the other progressive and even non-progressive countries that have adopted marriage equality.

It is Also a Personal Issue
I believe it is not up to anyone to tell anyone else who they can or cannot marry.  Religious freedoms remain.  Religions can arrange marriages between strangers, not marry divorced people, or not marry people of the same gender.  Marriage equality does not force anyone to marry someone of the same gender.

But as an HR Professional, where should you be moving your organisation regarding marriage equality and other human rights issues?  Which side of history do we want to be on?

Reg Polson


Address: 6a Glen Road, Ashburton VIC 3147, Australia Phone: +613 9889 4455 Email: Linked In: social
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