Do We Need to Have a Formal WGE Policy?

Policy Advisory

1. Most organisations show their commitment to workplace gender equality in their organisation’s Code of Conduct with a certain portion of it. What is your opinion on this?

Most organizations mentioned their commitment to WGE in their code of conduct (COC). It is good to show their commitment, at least in the COC. However,  a code of conduct outlines the standards that a company or organization expects of its personnel to represent the organizational culture and generally, a code of conduct covers multiple subjects at once. A policy, on the other hand, is normally more precise and provides instructions on how to act in certain circumstances, whereas a code of conduct typically consists of a collection of broad rules or ideals. For instance, the organization’s COC states that harassment and discrimination are unacceptable behaviours and are not tolerated in the workplace, where specific policies in these areas give detailed definitions and disciplinary actions that will be performed if this occurs. In contrast, the policy refers to the rules and regulations, the complaint processes, and the steps in the inquiry. Therefore, we, at BCGE, would like to suggest that if the company wants to run responsibly for Workplace Gender Equality, it should create a formal policy, especially for delicate and important issues like workplace harassment, discrimination, bullying, etc.

2. What is your key argument for having a formal policy, on Workplace Gender Equality, especially in the areas of anti-harassment, anti-bullying and non-discrimination?

Implementing Workplace Gender Equality, Diversity & Inclusion commitment and initiatives without anti-harassment, anti-bullying, and non-discrimination policy is like driving a car without a good break. Because it seems fine from the outside but can be very risky along the way to the goal of the business. These harassment, bullying, and discrimination areas disturb an organisation’s foundation, and hence, only recognizing these in a COC won’t be enough to resolve issues or incidents when they arise from these areas as these usually are sensitive and relate to penal codes, which will have negative impacts on business and escalate to reputational costs. So to have a safe and respectful workplace, there needs to be a formal policy to prevent and address sensitive and important issues like workplace harassment, discrimination, and bullying.

Therefore, BCGE’s compliance for members includes imposing a formal Anti-Harassment, Anti-Bullying and Non-Discrimination Policy upon membership and consistently advising the members to establish a formal policy and create a strong infrastructure.

3. Can you highlight the key benefits of having a formal policy, on Workplace Gender Equality, especially in anti-harassment, anti-bullying and non-discrimination areas for both employer and employee?

There are many benefits of having a formal policy for both employers and employees. For employers:.

  • An organization can resolve any claims of unfairness or legal violations made by employees if the written policy is well-developed and the necessary procedures are well-established and followed.
  • The formal policy can assist the organization in minimizing the legal risk and defining the personnel’s rewards and opportunities, which can enhance workforce morale, staff retention, and job satisfaction.
  • The company will gain the employee’s confidence by implementing a policy that guarantees a consistent and understandable reaction.
  • The policy aids the company in showing its good faith in treating its employees equally and fairly.
  • A formal policy allows for the precise definition of a decision-making framework.

There are also many benefits for the employees:

  • The policy informs employees of the organisation’s expectations for performance and behaviour.
  • The policy established the rules and principles for routine decision-making to avoid needlessly and repeatedly engaging senior-level management in the decision.
  • The formal policy adopts a uniform and understandable approach throughout the organization, allowing the employee to apply it to any comparable circumstance.
  • The policy’s clear description of how to handle complaints gives employees confidence.
  • The policy aids in information communication for new employees.

4. If an organisation is committed to DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion), do they need to have a formal policy, and if so, what are your recommendations?

If an organisation is committed to DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion), it should ideally create a formal policy, especially for the areas that employees, managers and leaders assume they know but is not in real practice, like DE&I and also for sensitive and important issues like workplace harassment, discrimination, bullying because it is not enough with COC for resolving the issue. So it is highly recommended to have a proper policy which should include the purpose, objective, scope of audience, the detailed definition of harassment, bullying, and discrimination with different types (in the case of Anti-Harassment, Anti-Bullying and Non-Discrimination Policy), the roles and responsibilities of managers and employees, the complaint mechanism: the committee, the focal, the process, the channels etc., the disciplinary action etc.

5. What would you suggest for an organization that doesn’t have any kind of policy yet? Where should they start?

In reality, depending on the organization’s culture, business goals, and vision, the necessary policies may vary. However, because this is the most delicate and important area among the WGEDI 11 areas, BCGE, a WGE centre of excellence and respected advisor in diversity, equity and inclusion, would like to advise having a proper policy on Workplace Anti-Harassment, Non-Discrimination, and Bullying, in the first place as the basic guiding principle for any organisations who commit to workplace gender equality.

Likely, incidents will not happen at work if a policy is in place and the employees abide by it. However, having a proper and standardised policy specifically on committed WGE areas would strengthen the organizational infrastructure, equipping it with guiding principles which can interact and resolve any issues and incidents in a transparent, standardized and proper way.


Answered by – Mya Hpone Thant – Senior Lead, Human Resources, BCGE