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AF Gruppen

Here, everyone has equal worth

Apprentice Ida led the way

In July 2020, AF Gruppen’s CEO, together with the other senior executives of the diversity network Diversitas, promised a clear confrontation with harassment in the building and construction industry. The background was the Ida incident that reached the front pages in the summer of 2020, where a female, young apprentice spoke of her harassment experiences. She was employed by a company that has had work as subcontractor on several construction sites run by the major contractors.  

The Ida incident sparked a lot of uproar both in the industry and at AF. The Diversitas executives responded with a joint appeal that was summarised as follows: “As industry colleagues we may compete for many things, but HSE and an inclusive work environment without harassment are areas where we must join forces, and where we have everything to win by nobody losing. Now it is high time that we deal with this and demonstrate vigour.”

Safe and inclusive work environment

AF has worked with the diversity project ‘The best people’ since 2018. But although AF scores well in employee satisfaction surveys both among women and men and has received international recognition for its diversity work, both the Ida incident and reports from AF Gruppen’s occupational health service and whistleblowing committee show that work remains to be done to root out harassment.

“AF Gruppen shall have an inclusive and safe working environment with zero tolerance for discrimination, as well as a culture where violations have consequences. This is clearly stated in our corporate strategy. This means that we must be equally clear out at our construction sites. We are responsible for the culture in the projects, both among employees and subcontractors,” says CEO Amund Tøftum. 

Encouraged to speak up   

AF Gruppen consists of numerous companies that share the same set of values. The 500 posters that have been posted in AF Gruppen’s projects are customised with the companies’ logos, but the message to employees and subcontractors remains the same.

“Feedback we get from employees out on the projects tells us that we have managed to achieve an inclusive approach, ‘Here everyone is of equal worth,’ but which leaves no doubt of the gravity,” says HR Director Karin Engen.

She is proud and pleased of the involvement in the projects amongst both skilled workers and officials.

“Clear and simple language states what is not tolerated at our workplace, and we encourage you to speak up if you experience anything unacceptable. At the same time we want to make those who observe harassment accountable,” Engen says.

In addition to posters, presentations and films have also been produced that are displayed on information screens at the projects and used for training and dialogue with employees and subcontractors. The materials are available in several languages. With the ongoing coronavirus pandemic the material has also been adapted for digital meeting grounds, and there are different Teams backgrounds with the same message when employees meet digitally. AF Gruppen’s material will be shared with the Diversitas diversity network.

“We have everything to gain by the whole industry stamping out harassment,” Engen says.