Several laws have been enacted to define, protect, and guarantee the rights and prevention of discrimination
However, it is important to acknowledge that some acts have limitations, particularly regarding gender inclusivity
Here is what startups and other businesses can do to create a more inclusive and diverse workplace
While the Constitution of India strictly prohibits discrimination based on various grounds such as sex, race, religion, and more, effectively implementing statutes, policies, and measures to ensure anti-discrimination has been an ongoing endeavor.
Several laws have been enacted to define, protect, and guarantee the rights and prevention of discrimination, including:
- The Employees’ State Insurance Act, 1948
- Maternity Benefit Act, 1961
- Equal Remuneration Act, 1976
- Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal) Act, 2013 (POSH Act)
- Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016
- The Human Immunodeficiency Virus and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (Prevention and Control) Act, 2017
- The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019
However, it is important to acknowledge that some acts have limitations, particularly regarding gender inclusivity. For instance, the Equal Remuneration Act, 1976 aims to ensure pay parity between men and women, potentially excluding other genders.
Similarly, the POSH Act specifically focuses on protecting women (although many employers choose to extend this protection to other genders). These limitations highlight the need for further progress in ensuring comprehensive inclusion across all genders.
Nonetheless, in today’s dynamic business landscape, the notion of inclusivity and diversity in workplaces has transcended its mere regulatory status. It has evolved into a broader strategic imperative for organizations.
Recognising the inherent value of diverse and inclusive environments, companies are now actively embracing these principles as drivers of innovation, talent attraction, and overall business success.
So what can startups and other businesses do to create a more inclusive and diverse workplace?
Adopt A Principled And Culture-Driven Approach To Diversity And Inclusion
- Create a well-defined diversity and inclusion strategy tailored to your workplace.
- Implement tracking metrics for gender, ethnicity, and representation in leadership and management positions
- Ensure a safe working environment and prevent discrimination (including recruitment, promotions, infrastructure adjustments, employment benefits, etc.).
- Supporting diversity through mentorship allows for the exchange of diverse perspectives and experiences, promoting innovation and creativity within the organization.
Pursue Diversity And Inclusion Hiring Processes
- Develop unbiased job descriptions and avoid gendered or biased language.
- Implement blind screening techniques to reduce unconscious bias during the selection process.
- List out positions suitable for individuals with disabilities ((Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016)
- Procedure for selecting individuals with disabilities for different positions, as well as providing post-recruitment and pre-promotion training, prioritizing them in transfers and job assignments, granting special leave, allocating residential accommodation if available, and offering other necessary facilities ( Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016)
- Pay equal remuneration to men and women workers for the same work or work of a similar nature (Equal Remuneration Act, 1976)
- Ensure that no discrimination is made while recruiting men and women workers (Equal Remuneration Act, 1976)
Create Policies To Harbour Safe Working Environment
Creating an Equal Opportunity Policy under Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 (Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016)
- This policy should be
- be made publicly available (website or in conspicuous locations in the workplace); and
- outline the facilities provided to enable individuals with disabilities to fulfill their responsibilities effectively in the establishment.
- Formulate a policy for prevention of sexual harassment (Equal Remuneration Act, 1976 and Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016)
- While the law requires the victim to be a woman, companies can go beyond the scope of law and extend such policies to men and can make the provisions gender neutral
- Creating a Maternity Benefit Policy (Maternity Benefit Act, 1961) as well as a Paternity Benefit Policy for males
- Create inclusive internal policies with due consideration to gender bias, LGBTQIA+ bias
- Provisions for assistive devices ensuring barrier-free accessibility, and other necessary measures.
- Provide infrastructure adjustments, including unisex toilets. Take measures to ensure safety and security, such as transportation and security guards.
- Ensure the availability of amenities like hygiene products for transgender employees.
- Provide creche amenities and private spaces for feeding for females.
- Provide private spaces for offering prayers.
Appointment Of Responsible Stakeholders Within The Organisation
- Constitute an internal complaints committee (POSH Act)
- Assign a complaint officer who will handle, investigate and report any grievances concerning any infringement under the under Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019
- Designated a liaison officer under the Disabilities Act, 2016
While these action points can serve as a starting point for organizations to promote diversity, inclusion, and equal opportunities in the workplace, it is important to customise and tailor these actions based on the specific needs and context of each organisation.
The shift towards embracing diversity and inclusion is not solely driven by regulatory compliance, but rather by a genuine commitment to creating a workplace culture that empowers and inspires employees.
By harnessing the power of diversity and creating an inclusive environment, organizations can unlock the full potential of their workforce, driving innovation, attracting top talent, and establishing a competitive edge in the global marketplace.