Maritime employers get thumbs up from shoreside staff for COVID response, but more progress needed on diversity and discrimination

Positive response from shoreside employees, in contrast to COVID impact on seafarers. Survey shows need for action to tackle discrimination and boost diversity & inclusion

Shipping’s employers have responded well in looking after their shore-based teams during the ongoing COVID pandemic, according to the results of a new survey of maritime employees, in contrast to the experiences of seafarers during the pandemic. Further action is needed to confront discrimination and to support diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

These are just some of the findings from the 12th Annual Maritime Employee Survey, conducted earlier this year by Halcyon Recruitment, Diversity Study Group and Coracle Maritime. The survey received over 1,000 responses from those in shore-based employment, spanning all sectors, job roles and regions of the global maritime industry.

The results paint a broadly positive picture of working life for those in shoreside roles during the COVID pandemic and an endorsement for the action taken by employers in response to lockdown restrictions around the world.

Most respondents gave a positive response to the steps taken by their employers, with 73% stating that their employer has responded appropriately, 68% saying that their employer has supported them to work flexibly, and 75% feeling connected with their team and colleagues. At the same time, 53% reported an increase in their workload because of COVID.

Although this picture appears largely consistent across job roles, sectors and regions, there are some notable exceptions. Overall, 76% of survey participants feel either extremely or moderately secure in their jobs, but this falls to 67% for those in insurance and legal roles, 66% in HR, crewing and support roles, 61% in the offshore sector, and just 45% in the Indian sub-continent.

Interestingly, despite the ongoing challenges posed by the pandemic, the maritime jobs market appears fluid, with 87% of respondents stating that they are either ready to move to a new role or are open to offers. This may be due to the success of remote working, with employees confident that they can work successfully, despite the restrictions of the past year, with many workplaces closed and very limited face-to-face contact with colleagues or customers.

The survey also reveals an unwelcome picture when it comes to discrimination in the maritime industry. Just over half of all survey respondents (51%) stated that they are personally aware of discrimination within the shipping industry. The three leading causes of discrimination were nationality (53%), gender (44%) and age (40%). Furthermore, only 52% of respondents said that they felt able to raise discrimination concerns with their current employer.

When it comes to diversity and inclusion (D&I) in the maritime industry, 70% said that they would like to see their employer do more to achieve a diverse and inclusive workforce, with a further 63% describing diversity in the workplace as being extremely important to them. 42% of respondents knew that their employer operates a Diversity and Inclusion programme.

Nevertheless, diversity, inclusion and equality are still growing in prominence within the shipping and maritime industry. This appears to be due to ESG reporting and gender reporting requirements, with ethnic minority reporting also on the horizon in some regions, as well as awareness of the tangible business benefits for D&I programmes.

Commenting on the results of the survey, Heidi Heseltine, CEO of Halcyon Recruitment and Co-Founder of the Diversity Study Group (pictured), said: “Shipping’s shore-based teams and employers have responded incredibly well to the unique circumstances of the past year, as the results of our survey show and the resilience and adaptability of employees around the globe deserves to be recognised. It is hard, however, not to draw the contrast between the experience of shore-based shipping professionals and those of the severe challenges faced by those working at sea during this time.

“This has been the most unpredictable year that most of us have experienced in our lives. With uncertainty still prevailing, HR and employee-related strategies have been subject to considerable change. In our report last year, we were optimistic that COVID would encourage employers to use the opportunity for positive change, perhaps under-estimating the extent of the crisis at the time, but we would still urge employers to revisit their employee focus beyond COVID as a priority. Otherwise, when the dust settles and more employment opportunities open up, it is not unreasonable to anticipate a considerable amount of talent attrition. This should include a positive response to the demand for more action to build more diverse, inclusive workforces and to tackle discrimination.”

The survey report is available on the Halcyon website. To download a copy, visit https://www.halcyonrecruitment.com/files/Maritime-Employee-Survey.pdf