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Marking International Workers’ Day in the Workplace

International Workers’ Day, also commonly referred to as May Day, is a celebration of workers’ achievements. It therefore serves as the perfect time for HR departments and business leaders to recognise, reward and celebrate their employees’ hard work and contribution towards business and people culture.

What is International Workers’ Day?

International Workers Day is celebrated on the first Monday of May in the United Kingdom (with other countries choosing to mark the day on a date that is significant to them). Its origins began in the USA in 1886 after the Haymarket affair in which there was a bombing at a labour demonstration in Chicago. Workers were striking for an eight-hour workday and during the protest, the bomb killed approximately 12 people. Since then, the day has grown in significance along with the rise of trade unions and as a result HR and business leaders globally have been using this day to recognise, reward and celebrate their employees’ contributions.

Why should businesses celebrate this day?

Many workers take for granted the basic rights that were fought so hard for many years ago. These include minimum wages, limits on working hours, people having the right to be paid holidays and sick pay. At the same time, it’s important for workers to feel appreciated and protected. In addition, celebrating workers promotes a feeling of positivity within the workplace which will lead to employees feeling more invested in contributing to the company and its culture. If you’re stuck for ideas on how to support or celebrate this day, here are some ideas for inspiration:

Review your policies

No doubt most companies will already have specific HR policies which are designed to safeguard the interests of all employees. However, this is as a greater time as any to review policies and ensure employees receive full support in their roles and optimal working conditions. HR policies should address a variety of aspects of working life from sick and holiday pay to compensation for overtime. The direct impact of this will result in a far happier and more productive workforce.

Attend a rally or march

Many people across the globe take to the streets to observe this day. For example, in 2018 protestors marched through London demanding trade union rights and demonstrating solidarity with international workers. These rallies are dedicated to raising awareness about all things that would affect workers from wages to working hours. After all, the best way to honour the past is to foster change during the present time.

Hold a celebratory workplace event

Whether a discussion over a free meal or some form of educational event, a large part of the day is reflecting on the history and learning about the leaders and activists who have worked tirelessly to achieve basic rights for workers. By organising a virtual panel, teams can invite key speakers and representatives from trade unions to speak more about their everyday efforts and even share their own experiences of the day. This may also serve as a good opportunity to network with several clients or suppliers who would also be interested in participating in such events.

Champion ethically sourced goods

This International Workers’ Day, support workers by selecting ethically-sourced goods. By purchasing Fair Trade products, you're ensuring the skilled craftsman responsible for the manufacturing of your products are receiving fair pay under safe working conditions. Businesses could even send your colleagues a gift bag with some Fair Trade products or if you're back in the office, create a spread with Fair Trade produce that everyone can enjoy in the canteen.

Give personal recognition for employee achievements

As previously mentioned, International Workers’ Day is all about recognising and rewarding workers’ achievements. Therefore, it’s more important that HR leaders find new and innovative ways to recognise employees for their efforts. One way to do this could include gifting a well-deserving employee an experiential gift. With over 3,000 experiences, there’s something to suit just about every employee. From online cooking classes to arts and crafts sessions, and tutored gin tastings, there’s guaranteed to be a fun experience to mark the day.

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