The workforce is changing, so should the workplace and workplace policies
The HUL policy aims to protect and provide assistance to staff members who are fighters of abuse, or acts of emotional and physical abuse beyond the office.
By Vidya Hattangadi
FMCG major Hindustan Unilever (HUL) has taken a big step towards helping its employees battle domestic abuse. For the first time in India Inc, HUL has coded a policy to protect its staff from domestic abuse. This is significant as it extends the responsibility of a company towards employees’ well-being beyond the office and into the employee’s personal and home life. HUL has designed and implemented this policy at a time when a significant number of its workforce is working from home. The HUL policy aims to protect and provide assistance to staff members who are fighters of abuse, or acts of emotional and physical abuse beyond the office.
Anuradha Razdan, HUL executive director (HR), says, “We want to stand up as advocates for change that we would like to see in society by proactively coming up with a policy which calls out to our employees: If you are someone who has faced this and wants to come out and talk, the organisation is here to support you.”
The UN has described the worldwide increase in domestic abuse as a ‘shadow pandemic’ alongside Covid-19. Globally, cases have increased by 20% during the lockdown, as many people are trapped at home with their abuser(s).
The workplace is evolving; in the area of human resources, organisations are adopting and encouraging practices to improve employees’ well-being. Working from home affects every employee perversely, depending on their responsibilities and living situations. For example, workers with younger children need to balance keeping them occupied while trying to keep up with work tasks. The same goes for those with elder-care responsibilities. For the first time in history, organisations have realised that they need to have open conversations with their employees about how and when work can be accomplished, without intruding on employees’ privacy. Organisations are offering a wider range of options for flexibility, such as more freedom when assignments need to be turned in or adjusting work hours per day to allow more time to care for children and elders. Employee mental and physical health is important for effective work-life balance.
Domestic violence cases are increasing, as employees began working from home after worldwide lockdowns imposed to combat Covid-19, and have become a greater concern for organisations. According to HUL, one in three women and one in seven men are abused at some point in their life. The new HUL policy will certainly increase productivity positively and contribute to the well-being of their employees.
According to law firm DSK Legal, the policies against harassment, the POSH Act, are limited to workplace harassment. Now, as the home is the extended workplace, it may be a good idea to actually cover up even those bullies. HUL’s initiative could set a precedent for India Inc, which has adopted HR policies with the aim of making workplaces fair and inclusive.
Standard Chartered has developed a toolkit that provides examples of mechanisms that can be employed when attempting to support victims of domestic abuse. It also provides a range of available resources for doing so. Standard Chartered Bank has made announcements for its LGBT+ employees. It will extend medical and domestic relocation benefits to its LGBT+ employees and their partners in India. All personnel will now be able to declare an LGBT+ partner as an eligible beneficiary under the bank’s medical reimbursement policy. The declared partner will also get covered under the domestic relocation policy. Organisations are showing that they care for their employees.
Last year, Tata Steel introduced a policy on employee partners who identify themselves as part of the LGBT+ community to take advantage of HR benefits permitted by law.
The Lalit Suri Hospitality Group also proudly identifies itself as an LGBT-friendly workplace. The idea is to provide appropriate opportunities to people in the community and to stop any form of stigma attached to them that could prevent them from getting employment.
More recently, cricketer Virat Kohli’s decision to leave the then ongoing India-Australia tour as his wife Anushka Sharma was expecting has also highlighted more men seeking paternity leave and increasing participation in chores at home. Kohli truly personified a perfect example of how men must be involved in wife’s/partner’s pre- and post-childbirth event.
In a policy announced in August, food ordering platform Zomato allowed all women (including transgender people) to use up to 10 days of period leaves in a year. Zomato wants to foster a culture of trust, truth and acceptance. Zomato understands that men and women are born with different biological realities. The organisation wants to make sure that it brings out innovative HR polices as 35% of Zomato’s employees are female.
Today, organisations are faced with an ever-increasing complexity on their side of the employment pact. The purpose of working and respect has gathered central importance for employees. This fact calls for stronger relationships between employers and employees, and is expanding the management thought process in strengthening employee value. Success is not simply about creating a good customer experience; it is also about generating a more engaging and rewarding employee experience.
Today’s workforce, which includes a cross-section of Baby Boomers, Gen X, Millennials and Gen Z, has distinct wants, needs and ways of thinking. This has increased the level of leadership complexity and requires more tailored solutions catering to desires of both flexibility and sovereignty in terms of employee value proposition (EVP). To attract and retain talent, leaders must demonstrate their commitment to the needs and success of their incongruent workforce.