Inorder for an organization to achieve long-term retention of diverse candidates, it is a good practice to ensure that all company policies are inclusive. Organizations can review each policy carefully to ensure they are not favouring a particular segment or leaving out any segment of the employee population.
For example, a leave policy may have a disproportionately large number of holidays for one specific religion. Similarly, writing gender neutral sexual harassment policies is instrumental in making employees from the LGBTQI+ community feel safe in the workplace (using “he/she” rather than the more inclusive, gender-neutral “they/them”).
Here are few successful inclusive work policies and programs, issued with the right intent in mind but faced some backlash in the implementation process:
The Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act 2017 increases women’s leave entitlements from 12 to 26 weeks. This move was to fill the void of family-friendly policies and encourage women to work even after child-bearing age. However, when the onus is on the employer to bear the costs of a 26 weeks paid leave, they would prefer to hire a young man rather than a young woman due to the high costs of maternity leave, and most of them may eventually become wary of hiring women of childbearing age. So, what is the solution? Like mentioned earlier, review these policies from a diversity and inclusion (D&I) lens making it gender neutral in the process.
These policies should apply to both mothers and fathers. Introducing paternity leave even if for a period of 3 weeks will make the maternity leave policy more inclusive. Paternity leave also allows men to understand the role of unpaid caregiving at home. Companies in India like Zomato and Novartis offer paid gender-neutral parental leave. The government could rework the model for paid maternity leave by providing subsidies or tax benefits like Singapore, Thailand and other countries abroad do so. This may help in mitigating the discrmination in hiring and pay packages, especially for women who are most likely to use maternity leave.
To encourage women to return to work after maternity leave, it is a good practice to keep them updated with work and allow for them to attend meetings in case they would be interested.
In August 2020, Zomato announced that all women and transgender employees would get 10 “period leaves” in a year. In this recent move, there has been a mixed response to the policy. While many celebrated this move, some were concerned about backlash since it may mean women spend less number of days at work which might then become a metric to give less pay to women as compared to men. However, the use of policy itself is open to subjective understanding of menstrual pain or discomfort which has the potential for discriminatory hiring and performance evaluation practices to creep in.
The criticism that this policy received was, how will the company know that an employee’s pain is debilitating enough for the leave? Furthermore, onus is on the employee to avail period leave, what happens when most of the women employees are able to manage without using it and others who suffer from disorders such as polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) tend to take more leaves?
Organizations can consider a way to incorporate gender neutrality in giving such categorized leaves. For instance, having a policy for emotional and physical wellbeing may apply to both male and female employees without creating any divide. Organizations may need to ensure that no menstruation-based discrimunation is observed within the workplace and there is an open dioaloigue that reduces the risk of unfair practices against women and transgender employees who avail menstrual leave.
A good way to make this gender neutral is to include all employees under this policy. Every individual has certain personal constraints, and so having a leave policy that allows for 10 days of unquestionable health related leave is a good way to start. This then includes those who battle trauma and mental health. It is important to remember that all new policies take time for adjustment and often receive backlash.
HEALTH INSURANCE PLANS
In an effort to make Indian workplaces more inclusive of every individual need, many companies have recently (over an year ago) extended their corporate health insurance plan to cover domestic partners for individuals in live-in relationships for both homosexual and heterosexual categories.
This extended healthcare benefits covers same-sex or opposite-sex domestic partners of employees along with the coverage for gender reassignment procedures. Other companies that offer similar benefits to members of the LGBT+ community include Intel India, CitiGroup, Godrej Group, Tata Steel, TCS, Accenture, Intuit and RBS India.This step is a commitment by the companies to acknowledge and celebrate diversity and inclusion among its employees and is welcomed by everyone with open hands.
*Read our Inclusion Handbook for more information on how to review current policies from a Diversity and Inclusion Lens.
About the Author and Serein
Nikita Agnihotri is Industrial/Organizational Psychologist with two Masters’ degrees specializing in Psychology from India and New York. She is a researcher with almost 3 and half years of experience in both academic and applied research settings. Reading about why some people feel they are not valued, or that they do not belong in their own organization, paved her way in the field of diversity and inclusion. She successfully defended her thesis on how organization-based self-esteem impacts voice behavior amongst employees at corporate workplaces. She has been involved in a variety of projects in applied psychometry area, from conducting criterion validation analyses for competency scales, using classical test theory for item analyses to developing items, writing white papers, creating marketing factsheets and assessing psychometric properties of a diagnostic tool for inclusion at workplaces. Working as a Research Fellow at Catalyst Inc., New York, she contributed in the development of an online inclusion survey for corporates. She is a self-aware individual who has the potential to adapt to change, embrace it and work effectively in a team with culturally distinct individuals. She is passionate about applying her knowledge in improving selection systems by broadening the criteria used for selection decisions and following an evidence-based approach.
At Serein we believe that diversity and inclusion are the pillars of a good society. Issues of inclusion, diversity, unconscious bias and mental health can affect home and the workplace in many ways.
Having worked on gender and with many other forms of diversity we have come to realise that an empathetic approach to all builds inclusion. It also builds a trusting environment in society as well as the workplace. If you would like to learn more about diversity and inclusion, inclusive leadership or how to speak about empathy, emotional/mental health issues or conduct gender, diversity and inclusion, unconscious bias, mental wellbeing trainings in the workplace, do drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org
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