February 23, 2016 — It is clear that conversations in India are moving toward creating a more inclusive environment. India is seeing a number of cultural and societal changes that are reflected in the corporate world and will lead to growth of businesses and the economy.
For example, laws are being amended to bring about an increase in the employment of women, pay parity, and inclusion of the LGBT community:
1) Extension of maternity leaves. The Indian Ministry of Labor recently announced that it may increase the maternity leaves for employed women in private firms from the existing 12 weeks to 26 weeks. This brought forth numerous opinions highlighting the pros and cons of the potential amendment to the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961.
While many were happy with this announcement, there were others who pointed out that extending maternity leaves may not be the entire solution to retaining women in the workforce. “The amendment would be more impactful if the Government also put emphasis on having childcare facilities in and around corporate campuses,” said Shachi Irde, Executive Director, Catalyst India WRC. “Organizations should also have in place effective performance-management systems and returnship programs that help women employees to rejoin the workplace smoothly,” she added. For example, Deloitte recently announced 26 weeks of maternity leave, and PWC, EY and KPMG are finalizing similar policies, but these companies are also adding initiatives that help support women before, during and after their leaves. Companies like Microsoft India, Flipkart, Accenture, Godrej, and HUL have also extended the maternity leave policy in their respective organizations. “It’s important that in addition to extended maternity leave, organizations take further steps to bring about a sense of belonging amongst their women employees. This will ensure a faster and easier integration process,” said Irde.
2) Pay gap analysis: Catalyst research finds that women and men in India’s tech sector start out with equal pay and responsibility; however, a gender gap emerges over time. Thankfully, the pay gap between women and men employees with similar experience is now under question. Progressive companies in India have started implementing gender audits to measure disparity in salaries.
In India, companies like L'Oreal and Coca Cola have a pay gap analysis process in place. “Indian companies may take time to make gender audits a norm,” said Irde. “Kimberly-Clark is a good example of a global company that undertakes reporting on pay equity among women and men employees. Adopting pay gap analysis would enable India Inc. to identify and bridge gaps to create a diverse and inclusive workforce.”
3) Scrapping of Section 377 of the Indian Constitution: An archaic law dating back to 1860, Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code criminalizes homosexuality in India. The Supreme Court of India is currently set to hear a curative petition against the apex court's 2013 judgment upholding the validity of section 377. Debates and discussions around this law have reduced the taboo that has existed around homosexuality, and the prevalent negative attitudes toward the LGBT community have changed significantly. It is now up to the Supreme Court to pass the judgment, although the final call is in the hands of the Indian Parliament.