“We are not robots. We are human beings.” This is what employees of the Indian private sector are saying these days with the growing problems in the workplace related to working hours, leaves, overtime, and notice period. Identifying and addressing these issues are essential for private companies to improve employee experience, reduce employee turnover, and decrease organizational risks.
A recent study found that nearly 42.5% private sector (including IT/ITeS, FMCG, manufacturing, real estate, education, engineering, media, telecom, and advertising among others) employees in India suffer from depression or anxiety disorders due to work stress, high-performance issues, overtime, and other job-linked prerequisites. And, it wasn’t surprising for us to know that Delhi ranked at the top among cities with the highest number of corporate employees suffering from depression, followed by Bangalore, Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Chandigarh, Hyderabad, and Chennai.
This is just one consequence of the problems corporate employees face today. There are many such challenges. That’s why it is important to know and recognize the solutions for these problems. So here it goes…
- Working Hours
Corporate sector employees are called ‘white collar’ employees (All employees who are not classified ‘Workmen’ under the Industrial Disputes Act or The Factories Act). Working hours in the private sector is regulated by the State Shops And Commercial Establishments Acts. For instance in Delhi, employees are entitled to work 9 hours per day and 48 hours per week, and it does not include break hours. Some states have long working hours while other more or less the same as it is found in Delhi.
Challenges: Some companies and big MNCs exploit employees and ask them to work extra hours in the name of corporate brand name, responsibility, promotion chances, and job stability. There is a common mindset in India, more working hours means more work is done. This is not true. A Stanford University report has found that productivity gets reduced after a 50-hour work week and it further deteriorates after 55 hours of work in a week. Long work hours often result in absenteeism and higher employee turnover ratio.
Solutions: The government cannot directly interfere in the private sector’s autonomy of doing business and how they employ workforce in their companies. But companies can themselves change this working pattern and adopt flexible work schedule. Flexible work configurations allow employees to work when they can achieve the most and enjoy working. Employees can avoid the traffic and the stresses of commuting during rush hours. Employers, in turn, can gain 100% work commitment from employees, reduce employee attrition and absenteeism, and represent their brand as an employee-friendly place to work.
- 90-Day Notice Period
Developed countries like the US, the UK, Europe, Canada, and Australia have a simple and short notice period for employees leaving any organization. Employees are asked to serve minimum 1 day to maximum 4 weeks of notice period. It is flexible. No employee can be forced to serve beyond that.
Challenges: In India, almost all IT firms, especially big MNCs, often ask their employees to serve a 90-day notice period. This is non-negotiable most of the times. No matter which role or position an employee is in, he or she has to complete the notice period, often stated in the employment contract. Companies claim that a 90-day notice period is mandatory for smooth transitioning of tasks or projects. Sometimes, employees are not treated well by their immediate seniors or managers after they resign from their post. Not serving the stated notice period can result in the loss of experience letter and other important documents which employees need while joining a new organization.
Solutions: Indian labor laws do not apply to the IT sector and corporates. The bond between an employee and employer is governed by the employment contract and the Indian Contract Act, 1872. This act states that notice period is related to reasonableness. Transferring knowledge of current assignments, projects, procedures, and clients to the next person takes a maximum of 15 days. Therefore, companies in India should reduce the 90-day notice period to 15-30 days, depending upon job responsibilities and the position. Companies can even adjust balance leaves against notice period and release the candidate on an earlier date. Also, the Indian Ministry of Labor and Employment should create laws to regulate the employment contract terms in the private sector.
Employers of the private companies often ask their existing employees to stretch their working hours to accommodate extra work so that they don’t have to hire additional workers. Recently, a young investment banker working in a leading Mumbai-based firm is a red alert that shows how overtime can result in stress, and related chronic diseases. A study revealed that more than half of the private sector employees experience overwhelming pressure at work and overtime as the reason behind their stress and depression.
Challenges: Excessive work hours can cause more health problems than they are worth. Overtime increases the risk of high blood pressure, back injuries, and mental problems. Overtime impairs performance and poses safety risks on road and at the workplace. Excessive overtime decreases productivity and creates morale problems. It affects work-life balance, and finally, frustrated employees give up, increasing your employee turn over.
Solutions: A bill was introduced in Lok Sabha by Labour and Employment Minister Santosh Kumar Gangwar. The bill aims to propose changes in the Code on Occupational Safety Health and Working Conditions 2019. The changes state that employees will be paid twice if they are allowed to work overtime. Organizations are also required to get a written consent of employees for overtime work. Companies can adopt flexible work culture to get more productivity out of employees rather than forcing them to work for long hours without getting desired results. When employees get what they want at any organization, they are more willing to work for better and faster results. If circumstances demand overtime from an employee, he or she must be paid his or her compensation on time. Overtime work culture should be strictly prohibited in any company if they want to increase employees’ productivity, decrease turn over, and improve their health.
- Leave Policies
In India, employees across all industries are entitled to a certain number of leaves every year aside from the holidays and weekly off under the Factories Act and State’s Shop and Establishment Act. Leave policy of a private company cannot be less than that mentioned by the State’s Shop and Establishment Act. But the policy changes with every State Shop and Establishment Act.
Challenges: Sick leave is the leave that employees avail when they are out of work due to illness. Private companies offer a minimum of 0.5 day to a maximum of 1 day of paid sick leave per month. There are no carry-forwards of sick leaves on a monthly basis in some private sector organizations. Many companies do not offer maternity and paternity leaves. For instance, in Delhi, there is no provision of maternity leaves, but Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu offer wages to non-factory employees for 6 weeks preceding delivery and 6 weeks after delivery. There are no provisions of Privileged Leave and Earned Leave in many SMBs in the private industry.
Solutions: There should be one leave policy for all industries in the private sector that will regulate the number of Casual Leaves, Sick Leaves, Privileged Leaves, Earned Leaves, Half-Paid Leaves, Study and Bereavement Leaves. The companies should be enforced to build a good leave policy for the purpose of helping employees maintain work-life balance, health, and for travel, vacation, emergencies, study, or other cases. Offering a good leave policy to employees not only increases their trust on your company and satisfaction level, but you can also set a good example in the industry for being an employee-friendly organization.
- Shift Allowance
The government of India is working on “Make in India” but in the private sector, it seems people are following ‘Wake in India.’ More companies are now offering 24/7 services to the clients in the US, the UK, Australia, and other countries. This has resulted in the creation of different shifts. Based on business requirements, employees are asked to work in early shifts, afternoon shifts, and night shifts.
Challenges: Most companies pay shift allowance only for the night shift employees. Shift allowance paid for night differs from one organization to another. Many companies do not offer compensation for making employees work in afternoon or early shifts. Employees who work in afternoon, and especially, in night shifts face personal and family problems, higher stress, relationship problems, social isolation, sleep loss, unhealthy lifestyle, and increase the risk of many serious diseases.
Solution: The head HR of a company should take responsibility to frame shift allowance policy to ensure employees are compensated for working in odd hours. They must be provided transportation facility, whether they work in early or night shifts. Shift allowance should be higher for night shifts, followed by afternoon and early shifts. However, the compensatory amount should be kept same in all private sector organizations.
In recent years, we have seen many big cases of layoffs in large MNCs. Corporations layoff large number of employees when the growth is slow, both in the company and in the global market. In such situations, promotions are tighter and performance evaluations are tougher, resulting in terminations of employees.
Challenges: Layoffs have a negative effect on customer retention. It gives a message to customers that your company is undergoing some sort of crisis. Employees who are terminated without any prior notice or support feel depressed. Employees are often laid off within a short notice and without giving proper reasons and support. They face difficulties in finding a new job to support their family.
Solutions: Learning and Development programmes should be started to provide an opportunity for re-skilling in employees on a regular-basis. Employees themselves or the senior-level executives should encourage them to update their knowledge and skills by taking up new courses or being part of a new project. If any company is planning for termination of employees, it must give them 1-3 months of time to search for a new job. Employees should be given support and proper references which will help them to find new opportunities quickly.
Employees who work in a private sector are always in a constant fear that they will lose their jobs if they don’t perform, take too many leaves, deny night shifts, or don’t work overtime. We need together to stand and work towards making our companies a better and friendlier place to work for anyone. We hope the solutions we mentioned above for each problem would help to increase employee satisfaction, retention, productivity, and much more.
Are you ready to implement these changes?
Let us know in the comments below!