ICICI Bank to allow women employees to work from home
ICICI Bank Ltd is leaving no stone unturned for retaining its women. In its latest initiative, the bank said it will allow its 21,000 women to work from home for up to a year and even take their children and care-giver on business trips, in a move to retain talent.
The country's largest private bank, which is headed by a woman, has about 70,000 employees, 30% of whom are women.
Two years ago, the bank conducted a survey among its women employees who left the bank and nearly two-thirds of those surveyed said they quit their job because of child care responsibilities, and long commutes, said the bank's spokesperson. Taking cognisance of this problem, it rolled out of its iWork@home initiative on a pilot basis a few weeks ago and while the programme will enable employees to work from home for up to a year initially, it can be further extended, said the bank.
However, some experts feel this initiative should have been rolled out to both men and women.
"It is not a great idea to make this available only to women. It reinforces the stereotype that it is women's duty to take care of the child," said Shachi Irde, executive director, Catalyst India WRC, a not-for-profit which works towards extending opportunities for women and businesses.
Moreover, she added, one does not always feels the need to work from home. "There are specific days and time when you need it," she said.
Many companies this year increased the maternity leave option from three to six months, and also allowed work from home options, but few allowed a year.
The bank is giving women access to their required operating systems to help them work from home. This includes a facial recognition technology to ensure that no one can impersonate the employee and get access to its applications. The technology platform for this has been developed in-house by ICICI Bank in partnership with students from IIT, Delhi.
Announcing the launch of these initiatives in Mumbai on Monday, Chanda Kochhar, managing director and chief executive officer, ICICI Bank, said: 'Although women form 48% of the population in our country, their representation in the workforce is much lower than men. Many women who join the workforce are sometimes forced to take a break or even leave their jobs, due to various life stage needs like maternity and child care."
Lack of support system due to predominance of nuclear families, inadequate infrastructural facilities like crèches and long commute time further accentuates the problem, she said. In addition to this, to support women managers, the bank felt that frequent travelling is a challenge for women with young children.
So it launched a policy meant for women managers with children up to three years of age. Here, the bank will provide them with the cost of travel and stay of the child and a care-giver (family member or child caretaker).
"Managerial responsibilities at times require them to travel outside city limits, for client interactions, business reviews or training. This will help our young managers to focus on their work without the emotional stress of staying away from their children," said the bank in a release.
Irde believes that any flexi policy has to be made available to both men and women for it to be an inclusive workplace, else it only reinforces stereotypes.