Mumbai: When employees turn against their company, consequences could be grim. The importance of maintaining healthy relations with employees and ensuring their well-being came to the fore yet again when an HR executive was killed on the factory floor of Maruti Suzuki Ltd in 2012.
The India Responsible Business Forum Index (IRBF Index 2015), an initiative of not-for-profit organizations which includes Oxfam India, Corporate Responsibility Watch and Partners in Change along with research organization Praxis, shows that of the top 99 companies, as many as 82 recognise their employees’ need for healthy and safe working conditions.
Documents in the public domain such as annual reports, sustainability reports and business responsibility reports (BRR) were used to draw up the index. On issues such as disclosing complaints on child labour and freedom to form unions, companies have fared reasonably well with 85 and 66 companies, respectively, disclosing these principles in their policies. However, on many others, companies did not measure up.
The BRR calls for a policy on fair wages, saying companies should ensure timely payment of fair living wages to meet basic needs and economic security of the employees. But as many as 57 companies have not recognised fair living wages as a core principle for employee well-being, according to the index.
Similarly, though 63 companies prohibit forced labour in their policies, only 9 companies have conducted assessments of workers’ rights and labour issues. “Many companies don’t have a policy for this, and even if they do, it is not well-thought out. A policy cannot be just an intent. It should also lay out the tools and method of assessment and implementation,” said Aditya Narayan Mishra, director and CEO, Ciel HR services, an HR consultancy.
The index shows that many banks fared poorly when it comes to public disclosure of policies on employee well-being. “This is because on certain aspects like prohibition of forced labour, it is not applicable for a bank, since the incidence of forced labour in the banking sector would be from nil to negligible,” said Namita Vikas, senior president and country head, responsible banking, Yes Bank.
In service sectors like IT and banking, employee well-being is traditionally more focused on safety, engagement and health and wellness of employees.
For instance, Infosys Ltd launched an initiative in 2001 to address rising concerns on employee health and the impact of work stress on its employees and their families. “Employee engagement and well-being are directly linked, and must be balanced,” said Richard Lobo, senior vice-president & head of HR at Infosys. “Where there is high employee engagement but low employee well-being, there is a risk that the employees will get fatigued and ‘burn out’ over time. And where there is high well-being but low engagement, employees may feel satisfied in general, but unconnected to the organization and its purpose.”
The other area of high disclosure standards was in prevention of harassment. The passing of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, has brought a lot of attention to harassment-free workplaces. Infosys and Yes Bank are among the 73 top companies that have a policy for this in the public domain.
The index shows that at the policy level, many companies don’t apply the same standards of well-being to all employees. While 66 companies disclosed data as per the BRR format on safety training provided to permanent employees, the numbers fell to 44 for contract employees.
“You cannot have different standards for employees, even if they are contract workers. There needs to be same work hours and same quality of training given to all employees, and this needs to be made clear even at the policy level,” said Mishra.