The Tata Group just turned into one of the most LGBT-friendly office spaces in India
Tata Steel recently unveiled an extensive plan to cover employees in same-sex relationships
When India’s Supreme Court finally decriminalised homosexuality, words of support poured in with many companies figuratively waving the rainbow flag with statements and declaring themselves LGBT-friendly office spaces.
Changing your DP to the rainbow flag is one thing, but building a support system for a marginalised community isn’t as easy as issuing a press release. We’re talking about assimilating their needs into the mainstream on a daily basis – zero-tolerance policies for discrimination, work opportunities to earn a living, ease of housing and access to health and welfare facilities.
LGBT-friendly office spaces in India are on the rise
Tata Steel recently announced an LGBT-friendly office HR policy that asks employees to come forward and disclose their partners to get all the HR benefits that the law affords heterosexual couples. This includes medical services and check-ups, adoption and child-care leave, domestic travel coverage including relocation and temporary transfers.
Interestingly, the policy allows for financial aid for people opting for gender-reassignment surgery and a 30-day special leave for the same. The term ‘partner’, earlier limited by ‘spouse’, expands the scope to include people of all genders.
And it’s not just the Tata Group that’s seen the benefits of inclusivity with LGBT-friendly office policies. Studies shows that diversity at the office pushes revenue growth and the profitability of the company.
It encourages new admissions and new ideas, promoting a positive atmosphere that’s conducive to teamwork. More and more companies have started including educational workshops and LGBTQ awareness initiatives within their circles.
IBM hosts pride walks on their premises open to employees, community members and allies.
The Lalit Group of hotels creates perhaps one of the most LGBT-friendly office environments, hosting sensitisation sessions and workshops that feature trans activists and queer community members.
Godrej and Star India too offer LGBT-friendly office benefits like health insurance coverage to same-sex partners of employees with maternity and paternity leave, IVF, surrogacy and adoption benefits. Accenture reportedly hosts a virtual platform that allows LGBTQ employees to share their journey and answer questions that other people may have.
Anti-discrimination policies that specify sexual orientation and gender identity are also entering HR manuals. Barclays in India is one of the few that have spelt it out.
Infosys created an employees resource network called Infosys Gays, Lesbians and You (IGLU) to encourage discussion among LGBTQ employees on required policy changes and better support from staff in the company.
The laws are changing, policies too (slowly), but it comes down to implementation. Increasing representation and employment opportunities will prove whether we’re making headway or not.
Saundarya Rajesh, founder-director of diversity and inclusion consulting firm AVTAR, explains it succinctly in an interview. “While homosexuality in India was decriminalised almost a year ago, as a society we are far from reaching a wholesome acceptance and inclusion of LGBTQ relationships.
“Policy changes at the corporate level will help reset the ‘normal’ and pave the way for a more inclusive future.”