New Delhi, Mar 1: Taking cue from market regulator Sebi, HR experts have pitched for a 'special hardship leave' and other benefits for women employees to ensure gender diversity in the corporate world.
The Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi), which regulates stock markets and other market entities as also all listed companies, has put in place a new system for giving 'special hardship leave' of up to two years to its women employees to take care of their family or children or their own health. This would be over and above maternity leave.
Terming it as a "market leading and inclusive" initiative, global professional services company Towers Watson India Director (Benefits) Anuradha Sriram said that flexible working arrangements are becoming a market norm as a best practice. Experts believe that corporates may also choose to provide more flexibility to help returning mothers resume their professional life, instead of a long-duration leave.
However, flexibility needs to have a robust governing mechanism to ensure that it is not misused though. Sriram further said that such initiatives would ensure gender diversity in an organisation.
"An enabling environment that allows women to manage work without compromising on family commitment would definitely encourage more women to join, progress and grow in the corporate ladder," Sriram said.
Executive search firm GlobalHunt India MD Sunil Goel said that "long sabbatical from three months to one year has been common in the corporate and good performers been allowed to take it, but definitely not to all just based on gender."
Goel further added that the step taken by Sebi and similar welfare measures would definitely help in ensuring gender diversity in the country. In order to promote the gender diversity management, many corporates are providing day-care and creche services within their office premises, while work-from-home facility is also being offered by many.
"Some progressive corporates have already put in place programs that allow women employees to manage careers along with different life event related needs and responsibilities through flexible work arrangements and time off," consultancy major PwC India People and Change Consulting leader Padmaja Alaganandan said.
However, an interesting recent trend has been to offer such programs to all employees and not just women. "It is important to establish and socialise the business case for gender diversity for such programs to gain wider acceptance. It is critical to carry all employees along, and not foster a perception that there is special treatment or in any way a dilution of meritocracy in the organisation," Alaganandan said.