ICICI Bank to al­low women em­ploy­ees to work from home

The Pak Banker - - COMPANIES/BOSS -

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.

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