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As Nirbhaya's story grips the nation, the IT &BPO industry -- which has a sizable chunk of womenemployees and where workdays ending in the wee hours is routine -- is further tightening its security measures.
The industry got a wake-up call with the horrific rape and murder of Pratibha Murthy in Bangalore in 2005. The country's IT & BPO sector, in which women account for 35% and 50% of the total workforce respectively, said they have periodically upped safety measures for women employees in the past five years to counter the unsafe environment outside office space.
Given that the BPO industry predominantly functions during the night and a high percentage of women is employed, security and transport have become critical areas. IT lobby body nascomm has already put in place a Nasscom BPO Code of Conduct that focuses on security during commute, transport and vendor selection, employee communication, and security within the premises. The code, for example, states that women employees must not sit in the front seat of the vehicle.
Mumbai-headquartered BPO company Aegis has tweaked its human resource polices for women in the past year, such that now women employees across all levels can opt for a day shift instead of night shift. According to SM Gupta, global chief people officer at Aegis, about 90% of the company's women workforce has opted for day shifts. The company has a workforce of around 24,000 employees of which 20% constitute women.
"For women employees travelling at night, strict and thorough background checks are done on the driver and security guards who accompany them home," said Gupta.
HCL Technology constantly monitors all employee cab services from its base stations. In case of any emergency, its SPOCs (single point of contacts) manning the base station can connect immediately with local police stations and patrolling units. Each employee also has on hand contact details of transport SPOCs, who can in turn mobilize necessary assistance in case of emergencies.
"All women employees have to call the transport desk to report safe arrival at home. In case they don't , the transport desk calls up the employee at the estimated time of reaching home on her mobile or home number for confirmation. This is compiled as a daily safe arrival report and subjected to internal audit," said Subrat Chakravarty, VP and global head - HR, business services, HCL Technologies.
Besides, companies like Infosysand HCL are conducting self-defence classes to empower its women. To take the self-defence aspect a notch up, companies like HCL have set up shops within their office premises to facilitate the sale of pepper spray. HCL also has a stringent per-engagement screening process of its transport vendors by sharing records with the police. The company has created a common database of blacklisted vendors/drivers, which is updated and distributed regularly.
The Indian IT/BPO Industry is of the opinion that their existing safety processes and measures for women are only now being talked about by the government.
"Whether it's GPRS tracking devices in vehicles or security guards escorting women to their homes, these are practices the BPO industry has pioneered," says Raman Roy, CMD, Quatrro Global Services headquartered in Delhi. According to Roy, safety measures for women employees is an ongoing process and doesn't come to light only when incidents such as the Delhi rape case pop up.