A survey carried out by law firm William Fry has found that only 17% of Irish employers know what their ESG (environment, social, and governance) obligations are, and have no concerns about implementing them.
The survey covered more than 400 employers and more than 1,000 employees across the country.
It was conducted for The Employer's Guide to ESG, which William Fry published today (25 January).
The research found that just over one-third of employers had implemented policies on mental health and wellness, while just over a quarter had a policy on remote or hybrid working.
Only 20%, however, had implemented a policy on whistleblowing, and a ‘right-to-disconnect’ policy was in place at only 12% of the organisations surveyed.
Just over 30% of employers had not implemented a specific policy on any of these issues.
Catherine O’Flynn (head of the William Fry’s employment-and-benefits team, small picture) said: “Our survey shows that 77% of employers surveyed believe that they are compliant with all current employment legislation.
“However, only 20% have a whistleblowing policy, and 12% have a right-to-disconnect policy.”
The William Fry lawyer warned employers on a finding that 37% were not focused on the increasing number of ESG obligations, because they did not feel it was relevant to their organisation.
She pointed out that all employment legislation fell within the remit of ESG, and was relevant to all employers.
“Employees’ rights are increasingly protected by legislative developments, and are further enhanced by the social component of ESG,” said O’Flynn.
“It is difficult to defend employment claims if an employer is not compliant with legislation and relevant codes of practice and, at a minimum, employers need to comply with current legal obligations,” she added.
O’Flynn said that employers who failed to comply with new legislation and new standards would not only face employment-law risks, but would also have difficulty in accessing capital markets, be at a risk reputationally, and be at a disadvantage when it came to recruiting and retaining talent.
Hybrid working key for employees
The William Fry survey found that the top priority for employees was to have a hybrid and flexible working policy, with only the 25-34 age group indicating that fully remote working was a high priority.
Health insurance was cited as a priority by 18% of employees, followed by training and development (11%), fully remote work (11%), and dignity at work (6%).
The younger group prioritised training and development the least, while the over-50s were least focused on prioritising gender-pay-gap reporting, out of all of the age groups.
Strong diversity-and-inclusion practices were ranked as the second-least-important policy to the 25-34 group – just ahead of paid volunteering time.
The William Fry guide includes a list of recently enacted legislation, as well as proposals that are in the pipeline.