Bringing a broad spectrum to diversity, equity and inclusion

Jamie Fellows explains how BAT Australia has created a more flexible, inclusive workplace

Bringing a broad spectrum to diversity, equity and inclusion

Employee expectations around diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) have changed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and British American Tobacco (BAT) Australia is aware of the need for flexibility to promote employees’ work-life balance, said the company’s area HR and inclusion director, Jamie Fellows.

BAT was an excellence awardee in the Best Workplace Diversity and Inclusion program category of the Australian HR Awards 2022.

Fellows said in this interview with HRD that increased workplace flexibility required upskilling a large number of people who might have been working in a traditional way before the pandemic. To address this concern, BAT ensured that its employees could work comfortably in a hybrid arrangement.

“We’ve invested in equipment for all of our Australian employees so they can find it easier to work from home because not everybody has a space [where it’s] easy to work. And we’ve recently moved to no-meeting days,” he said.

“We’ve moved to wellness days in the month. And we’ve got a flexible work-from-anywhere policy to really try and enforce codification of what I would call flexibility in how we work.”

According to Fellows, a successful DE&I program has a “reasonably broad spectrum” that benefits different groups of people.

“For us, that was particularly around female management, number of [female] employees, and simply focusing on making this a more attractive place to work for females […] or making sure that we’re bringing more women through the door,” he said.

In 2023, the company aims to empower more women to join its leadership team and create an inclusive culture where female employees would decide to stay.  

“One of the things we wanted to do is a focus on mothers returning to work, but also staying in touch and making the maternity or parental leave period more tactile in terms of how people stay in touch with the organisation. Just to normalise it and make it part and parcel of being in [the team].”

In addition, BAT simplified its leave policy so employees can easily request time off when they are experiencing a difficult time such as bereavement or other emotional situations. Another priority was increasing awareness about neurodiversity and supporting the LGBTQ+ community.

For organisations aiming to improve their DE&I strategy, Fellows suggested setting clear targets and taking tangible steps to achieve them. Although challenges would occur, diversity and inclusion were “really enjoyable aspects” of the workplace, he said.

“It’s about celebrating cultures. It’s about celebrating different individuals, different genders, bringing people together in a way that [improves your company] culture and the business that you’re in.”

Watch the full interview here

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