Extension of work hours worries women in IT firms

Women employees that Deccan Herald spoke to are worried that any attempt to stretch the working hours beyond 8 pm would lead to safety issues.

“We are afraid this would result in safety issues for us,” said Sowjanya, who works for an MNC in the City.

“Already our company and many others have cut down on transportation services. It looks unlikely that things would be better if we are made to work after 8 pm. Moreover this would affect work life balance,” she said. With rumours that some IT companies are preparing for large-scale lay-offs, women employees feel that they would be the natural target if they fail to comply with the extended working hours.

“This is a deal we can never accept though our companies keep telling that they follow standard procedures,” said Chitra, another IT employee.

 “We have families. How can we accept the unfair working hours? If we don’t, then it would be used as a reason to sack us,” she said.  More than the IT sector, women in the ITES –BPOs and call centres are said to be affected more. Most of them are reluctant to talk about the issue in public fearing for their jobs.

Employees complain that companies have relaxed some strict regulations in providing transportation facilities for women after the murder of Pratibha Murthy. Many believe that security measures were taken as a short-time measure rather than as a long-term action to protect employees.

“Transport and security are  considered by companies as the major part of their cost cutting measures during recession,” said an employee, who is reluctant to reveal her name.

“Many women live far from their workplaces and it would be extremely difficult to travel after 8 pm,” said a statement from IT and ITES Employees Connect(ITEC), the informal grouping that also accuses the industry of trying to back away from its responsibility to provide transportation facility by asking for the extension of the 8 pm deadline.

According to an expert from one of the prominent business schools, the Labour department is unlikely to relent on this issue as this would set the precedent for others to come up with similar requests.

“At the end of the day, ITES and IT are cost-based industries which have their own pressures,” said the expert.  “With no wage data on employees, it is unlikely to gauge the degree of discrimination. But increasing the working hours is an effort to keep the industry low-cost,” opines the expert.

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