Aren’t companies supposed to take care of their workers first?

Friday June 5 2020

 

By Caroline Mboijana

Recently, there was a social media outcry over a company that gave donations to the Covid-19 food relief taskforce, yet its employees had allegedly not been paid. Aren’t companies supposed to look out for their employees in distress before looking out for other people? Doesn’t the law require employers to try to reach out to their employees in distress? What are the rules of CSR? Is it just a publicity stunt? Clare

Dear Clare,
Managing the implications of Covid-19 may not be as black and white for companies. Employers would have, over the last 2 months, been struggling to manage competing priorities that require financial resources. I am in total agreement that the lives and well being of employees is a priority, but so is contributing to a national crisis, where possible. I cannot comment on whether the company was right on wrong in taking the decision that it did.

Your context states the company “allegedly” had not paid staff, suggesting that it’s not 100% certain the company did not pay. It may be the case they delayed paying staff as opposed to not paying staff at all.

There is no law that forbids employers from contributing to social responsibility before and or at the same time as looking after its employees. The practice by many companies during this period has been to strike a balance between looking after its employees as best they can as well as contributing to the national crisis.

There are no explicit rules on how a company should manage its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) commitment. That said there are best practices that will guide companies on how to think about their CSR philosophy and long-term goals. CSR should not be a publicity stunt but rather long-term commitment for businesses to affect its community including its end consumers wherever they may be. Some say a company’s CSR philosophy is the conscious of the company in terms of its responsibility to citizens.

When companies take part in CSR activities its because they are passionate about their chosen area of activity and want to make an impact on the lives of those who are less able.

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How it is managed, communicated etc will define whether it’s seen as stunt or a long-term responsibility. The credibility of a CSR is assessed on its fairness in which resources, money, good, etc have been used to make sure all, end consumers, communities and beneficiaries, have had access to the benefits that were intended by the CSR.

Caroline Mboijana,
Managing Director,
The Leadership Team (U)
cmboijana@gmail.com

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