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United Kingdom (UK) - Business and Workplace Culture

Workplace culture generally requires employees to speak English, however it is commonly accepted that not all will be equally fluent in the language. Expats may have a little trouble fitting in at first if English is not their first language, while they get used to the colloquialisms of business.

Some tips and thoughts regarding business culture in the United Kingdom are listed below:

• Usually there is an attitude of being a part of a team.

• Workers are often required to multi-task and to be able to step outside their role and fill in for others if necessary.

• Diplomacy is an important part of workplace culture.

• Humour is acceptable and often expected in business in order to diffuse tension and make meetings or team work more palatable.

• Women have gained more roles in business of late, particularly in service industries.

The above points will not be applicable to every company. One aspect of UK culture that has remained in place throughout the years is class distinctions, which can be seen in microcosmic form in the workplace hierarchy, where respect is always given to those at the head of the company.

Women in the Workplace

Different sources offer diverse information regarding women in the workplace, including the percentage of women working versus men. The general consensus is that about 34% of women in the workplace are in management positions. Roughly 42% of women in the workforce are part time workers. Representation of women in the 16-64 age bracket has increased from 53% in 1971 to 67% in 2013, which suggests a certain level of improvement. states that 2014 will see a significant increase in the number of women working in the UK. A study conducted by the site suggests that there is only a 6% gap between how many women are working versus men.

While the reports seem to be favourable, the number of women working part time in lower level jobs cannot be overlooked. Recent findings seem to suggest that there is still a certain level of sexism in the workplace, however this does seem to be improving gradually, as demonstrated by recent statistics concerning women in management positions.

Other Discrimination

The United Kingdom has laws in place to protect against many types of discrimination, including sexual harassment, sexism, sexual orientation, disability, race, and religion. Discrimination laws protect any person, expat or UK citizen, from having their contract terminated based on any type of discrimination. Laws also exist for equal opportunity employment.

If discrimination occurs within the workplace, an employee should contact the relevant government agency or trade union. There is a process that should be followed if discrimination occurs, which generally begins with a formal complaint to the employee’s direct supervisor. If the direct supervisor is the one being discriminatory, then a person should speak to their department supervisor. If there is no one above the discriminating party, then mediation through a solicitor might be required. It is possible to take such claims to an employment tribunal.

State of Industrial Relations

The State of Industrial Relations system has been in effect for over a century in order to protect the rights of workers; however in 2012 the system showed a decline, with under 26% of people joining a trade union. Rather than using the State of Industrial Relations, many use employment rights to protect themselves, which has also had an impact on the prevalence of strike action, which currently stands at less than 1%. The private and public sectors see markedly different percentages in terms of collective bargaining, which is often used instead of strikes. The private sector sees about 16.9% of workers, as opposed to 67.8% in the public sector, bargaining for better rights and working conditions.

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