Havas and Creative Equals step up anti-workplace discrimination initiative

Press Pause provides a framework through which employees can speak up about uncomfortable or inappropriate situations.

Press Pause: Havas uses policy to develop more diverse and inclusive ads, such as this one for Durex
Press Pause: Havas uses policy to develop more diverse and inclusive ads, such as this one for Durex

Havas London has partnered Creative Equals to unveil an anti-discrimination intiative through which employees can challenge problematic views and behaviours. 

The agency has used the Press Pause policy since 2019 but has now received the backing of Creative Equals and is making it open to other businesses to improve equality and inclusion within workplaces. The policy will be published at creativeequals.org/press-pause for any organisation to use. 

The guidelines allow any employee to “pause” an uncomfortable or problematic encounter before taking potential next steps. Such encounters might include internal conversations or interactions with clients and suppliers, and would entail “any exchange where behaviour is shown or something is said or implied (including microaggressions) that is deemed prejudiced, discriminatory, derogatory or negative toward any one person or more”, the policy states. 

Once the exchange is “paused”, the person can express their concerns, move the conversation on to another topic or remove themselves from the situation and raise the issue later with a nominated person. The company can then take further steps to address it. 

Xavier Rees, chief executive of Havas London and Havas Helia, recently discussed Press Pause at a Creative Equals event and said the industry lacks a codified means through which people can confidently challenge discrimination, particularly in circumstances where a power imbalance may exist. 

He explained: “It is incumbent on all of us to call out discrimination, wherever we see it. If we don’t, we are complicit. As an agency leader, I need to ensure everyone is able to do that, with confidence and without fear.

"Press Pause arms our people with the right tools when faced with a difficult situation and empowers them to address it through a clear process and the right support.

“No more turning a blind eye to comments, actions or requests we know are not OK. We introduced these guidelines last year, and they have since been used on multiple occasions to positive effect.

"They have led to some difficult, but necessary, conversations, each time with a satisfactory outcome that otherwise would not have happened.

"It’s imperative we work together as an industry to root out discriminatory views, and it has become increasingly clear that Press Pause is too important an initiative to keep to ourselves.”

Ali Hanan, founder and chief executive of Creative Equals, added that many of the stories she hears fall foul of the Equalities Act, are potentially discriminatory and can lead to staff experiencing "deep trauma".

“It is our duty of care as leaders to also protect our staff and give them a way to protect themselves and the integrity of the work they are creating, which is what ‘Press Pause’ does," she said.

"We know psychological safety is key to driving equity and inclusion. The fact is diverse staff will not stay in your business or the industry if their voice is not respected, valued and heard, but for many, it can be challenging to speak up, particularly in front of clients or in situations where they are not in a position of power."

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