15 February 2017 09:23:03 IST

India Inc is finally talking about diversity in the workplace, says IRBF report

Businesses are getting more socially inclusive, but more needs to be done

The Constitution promises equal opportunities for all, but it wasn’t necessarily always the case in the workplace.

Corporate India, however, appears to be finally talking about diversity in workforce, with over 60 of the top 100 listed companies on the Bombay Stock Exchange clearly mentioning caste in their recruitment policy, the rankings of an index on ‘Responsible Business’ show.

“Almost 62 companies are now talking about caste in their recruitment, mostly from a non-discrimination or equal opportunity framework point of view,” says ‘Making Growth Inclusive’,” a report by India Responsible Business Forum (IRBF), consisting of Oxfam, Praxis, Corporate Responsibility Watch and Partner in Change, released on Tuesday.

“Bajaj Auto discloses the number of Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes among employees very prominently.

“Godrej Consumer Products shares disaggregated numbers of SC/ST employees for one of the plants, while Tata Steel has provided disaggregated employment figures under affirmative action but not necessarily with caste as a factor,” says the report, which analysed inclusive policies, disclosures and mechanisms of the top 100 companies. However, there was a decline in disclosures on SC/ST employees compared with 2015 because of fewer public sector companies in the sample.

Gender discrimination

On gender discrimination, the report said there was “still a gap in terms of explicitly stating commitment through the ‘Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace’ policy.”

Overall, the index notes a marginal improvement in all elements of social inclusion in its second edition, with “many positive signals” emanating from the top 100 firms that were ranked on the basis of five elements — non-discrimination in the workplace, respecting employee dignity and human rights, community development, inclusiveness in supply chain and community as business stakeholders.

“It is encouraging to see that government legislation (2 per cent mandatory spend on corporate social responsibility) is pushing more responsible practices,” said Oxfam India Chief Nisha Agrawal.

Praxis India head Tom Thomas said such affirmative action was “a welcome change that needs to be championed by all companies” to ensure inclusive growth.

Health, safety

On employee dignity, the report found more companies had a system in place to ensure health and safety of employees, though “fair living wage”, a key indicator, was recognised by only 16 companies.

“Only 18 companies recognise, as a policy, to providing social benefits like provident fund and medical benefits for contractual employees,” it added.

On the supply-chain front, only six companies have systems to assess issues related to contractual worker rights, the report said, adding that it was “heartening” to note that 79 firms recognised the ills of child labour in their supply chain.