More and more, we’re seeing organizations opt to take a stand on social issues. Consumers and employees are doing so as well by participating in boycotts, joining protests, signing petitions, and donating to causes or groups that they feel are in alignment with their values.
Many organizations are trying to be proactive on this front. For years, there have been organizations that offer extra time off for specific activities like volunteering or charity work. Now another trend is starting: Organizations are adding benefits related to social activism.
This could take many forms. For example, businesses could offer:
- Extra paid time off (PTO) day or days when used specifically for social causes like protests, marches, attending government functions or rallies, meeting with legislators, attending events designed to shape public policy, etc. This could also take the form of paying for a PTO day on any local or national election day so employees can freely take time to vote.
- Company matching of donations for social causes, such as matching donations to a specific activist community or group that is in alignment with company values.
- Providing bail money for employees if they are arrested while legally protesting, and providing extra time off for court or other appearances related to the arrest.[i]
- Providing information about local voting opportunities to encourage employees to take part.
- Paying some travel or lodging expenses for employees who travel to do some of the activities outlined above.
More often, customers are interested in where an organization stands on social issues. By offering employees the opportunity to express their views, an organization is taking a step toward becoming socially active regardless of whether the organization itself publicly supports a specific activity. Taking a stand makes the most sense in organizations where there are specific social causes that are a good fit with the organizational goals or that are a way to shape public perception of the organization.
Naturally, this won’t be a good fit for all organizations. In some instances, it makes much more sense to remain completely neutral on most social activism. Many organizations don’t want to stifle one side or the other, so they opt not to support either. Sometimes, even allowing employees to be active in these causes could be seen as an endorsement of a particular side, even if it’s not.
But in cases where the cause is a good fit for the company’s goals and image, it can make a lot of sense to give employees that flexibility to be engaged and active in the things they care about. If you’d like to offer benefits that can help while still remaining neutral, you can also consider things like extra PTO or flexible work schedules, which can both go a long way regardless of how they’re used.
The organizations that offer these types of benefits can still opt to do so with whatever caveats are appropriate, such as requiring employees have their shift covered before taking time off, requiring a training course on a topic before getting PTO to protest, or refusing to allow it to be used for anything that promotes violence.
[i] This example is from the company Patagonia. They require employees to undergo training before being eligible for this benefit. See https://www.fastcompany.com/40407672/could-social-justice-benefits-be-the-newest-employment-trend