Will Karnataka Assembly panel’s advice to the government to ask companies in Bengaluru to not put women on night shifts affect their employment chances?
Reports said the committee on women and child, headed by the Congress MLA from Bengaluru, N A Haris, has tabled its report in the state legislature on Monday. “We have recommended that companies must avoid having women working night shifts. A lot of women approached us and said working during the night is difficult for them and they are forced to work in the night,’’ Haris told Indian Express.
“Precaution is better than cure. We are just recommending it and it is up to the government to decide.’’ The recommendation is particularly aimed at information technology and biotechnology companies in Bengaluru.
The panel consisted of 18 members cutting across party lines. The report also says that some women legislators on the committee were of the view that the onus of women’s safety must lie with the companies, not with the women employees themselves.
The recommendation, if implemented without sufficient safeguards, could affect the job chances of women as more and more employers will prefer to hire men to get around issues of shift restrictions and maternity leave and child care.
"In the BPO sector, you have a lot of women working on the night shift while IT firms generally don't have a multi-shift routine like BPOs," says Kris Lakshmikanth, who runs the executive search firm, The Head Hunters.
“Typically, these are employment generating sectors and governments are mindful about laws impacting them,” he said.
While the Karnataka Shops & Commercial Establishments Act, 1961 (through Section 25) prohibits employment of women during night, IT companies in the state are exempted from this rule.
"For IT companies, the amendment had been done long back which enabled them to grow in Karnataka and lakhs of women to get employment," says B C Prabhakar, a labour law expert and president of the Karnataka Employers' Association.
The recommendation, he feels, isn't a wise one, especially when women are fighting for equal rights and are demanding that laws which prohibit them from working in the night be scrapped. In fact, over the years, he points out, several high courts have quashed Section 66 of the Factories Act which prohibited night shifts for women.
Parliament recently passed a law to extend maternity leave of 12 weeks to 26 weeks. The legislation will also entitle women who adopt infants -- below the age of three months -- to maternity leave. Currently, adopting mothers don’t have a legal right to maternity leave.
Now, any employer with 50 or more staff will have to provide for crèche facilities in house or outsourced. Working mothers can make four visits to the crèche during her work hours, according to the provisions of the amendment bill. Women will also have a chance to work from home, subject to approval.
“The change in the policy surely provides much needed time to female executives but one needs to be careful that it should not reduce the employment of women representatives in the corporate world,” said Gaurav Sharma, the Director of Human Resources, Gionee India.
"A large number of women in India fall out of the workforce because of un-supportive corporate policies that tend to discriminate against women who decide to go the family way. Returning to work implies either relying on baby sitters for a newborn child or co-opting support from extended family members which has become increasingly difficult in the age of nuclear families. We hope the legislation helps in preventing this loss of talent,” said Rajeev Bhardwaj, VP HR, Sun Life Financial Asia Service Centre.