Friday, December 21, 2012

  1. India Inc beefs up safety for women employees; GPS-enabled, 24x7 helplines, driver verifications some of the measures

Shweta Kataria, 32, works as a manager in the business analytics team of Aegis, Gurgaon and lives in Delhi, which, for her, is a good hour's drive. Her day typically ends by 7pm, but there are times when she is required to work with international clients from 5.30 pm till 2.30 am.

She takes no chances with safety. "I carry a pepper spray with me all times," she says. Many women in her office pool cars to feel safer. For women like Kataria, working in a metro means walking the razor's edge. It requires them to be constantly on alert, especially when they are on latenight shifts. Incidents like Sunday's gangrape of a young woman in a Delhi bus have left them even more on edge. But their employers aren't exactly looking the other way.

From organising escorts to take them home safe to holding self-defence workshops and even allowing them to leave early, India Inc is doing all it can to ensure women employees feel secure, and in the bargain, give them the mindspace to focus on work.


After the incidents of violence in various parts of the country against women business process outsourcing sector employees returning home late, this is one sector that has its defences ready.

"The industry is acutely conscious of the need for stringent safety measures and precautions to guarantee the protection of women employees," says Subrat Chakravarty, VP & global head — HR, business services, HCL TechnologiesBSE -0.74 %. As part of its annual training schedules, the company's business services division proposes to conduct workshops in self-defence. Administrative teams have opened shops in office premises to facilitate the sale of pepper spray.

Two months ago, Aegis too held selfdefence workshops to teach women employees how to be safe in malls and parking lots.

Another area where companies are beefing up security is office transport. At Aegis, all women employees have a male security guard dropping them in case they are travelling alone, says SM Gupta, chief people officer.

Roshni Das, who heads the advertising and digital team at Intel, has never felt unsafe traveling home after work, in her eight years with the company. "The firm organises forums where any safety issue is brought up. During office tours we are encouraged to use transport vendors provided by the company rather than use personal transport, which helps as office car details are documented," she says. makes sure women are not the last to be dropped or the first to be picked up in office taxis, after women employees complained a few months ago of drivers who were rude or flouting instructions. "We have tied up with a bigger transport services company now. We also make sure that women get the first perference in our parking lots irrespective of designation so they do not park in an unsafe area," says Kirti Raj, vice-president, HR.

CairnBSE -2.22 % India has a system which tracks all its vehicles in real time.

Women employees who are the last to be dropped are provided helpline numbers of the internal security officer in case the driver misbehaves or takes a detour.

Travel to other cities is restricted to a few locations where the company has its own arrangements. Women are entitled to upgradation of better rooms and accommodation too, says Sanjay Singh, director, Human Resources. Philips goes so far as to encourage employees to travel in groups and once home, send an SMS to their managers. If managers don't get a message by a certain time, they are instructed to call the employees and find out if they are alright.

"It may seem a bit over the top to some, but in the past two-and-a-half years, we have been realising just how important these safety measures are.

Our policies are the same across the country, but the care and fear in National Capital region is higher," says Yashwant Mahadik, Vice-President, Human Resources, Indian sub-continent. At HCL's initiation, several IT/ITES companies in Noida have formed an association under the aegis of Nasscom and meet regularly to discuss and share concerns related to employee transport. 
Source : The Economic Times, 21 Dec, 2012

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