HR Targetting Pregnant Employees is Illegal and Inhuman

This entry is part 9 of 9 in the series IT Life II

Shyam Sundar who is a part of NDLF IT Employees Wing is having around 20 years of experience in information technology. He wrote an article series on “IT employees Life Fun or Problems” to create awareness about various issues faced by IT employees. This write up is ninth part of Series 2.

We have seen so far how layoffs are happening in IT industry and how to fight against layoffs in the previous parts. We will see why layoffs are happening and who are the primary targets of layoff?

The Bulge Mix

Every company in IT industry manages something called bulge mix in respective projects. The bulge mix is the average experience of all employees who is working for the particular project. For example, if there are 10 employees working in a project with experience of each employee as 22, 19, 17, 15, 12, 8, 6, 3, 3, 2 then bulge mix of the project is (22+19+17+15+12+8+6+3+3+2)/10 = 10.7 years.

Most of the IT companies want to improve the bottom line which is the profit earned (revenues – actual expenses incurred) by the company. IT being a service Provider industry the biggest impact on the bottom line is made by employee salary. The people with more experience will have higher salary and IT companies want to maintain bulge mix of 4.5 to 5 in most of the project to contain the costs. In simple words, IT companies want to have average age of all employees to be less than 30 years to improve the bottom line.

It is mandatory for managers in all projects to maintain the bulge mix in their respective projects. As a result, most of the managers are forced to release senior employees and backfill with freshers to manage the bulge mix. That’s the primary reason for senior employees being targeted as part of appraisal process. Most of the appraisals are used as instrument to maintain bulge mix among various projects. They use appraisal to reduce senior employees and reduce the cost of delivery.

This gives rise to a big problem, of employee losing jobs when they gain more experience. IT Industry is like a musical chair game in which as employees grow more and more in experience, more and more chairs are removed.

This also puts pressure on remaining employees to deliver projects with less experienced members and increases the pressure on delivery leading to stress and anxiety to remaining members. They are forced to stretch to meet targets with available team to improve overall productivity.

Promotion and pay hikes in the initial stage of the career will be much faster/higher but competition will be very high as the employee gain experience. The average hike of senior employees will be less than 3-4% and many employees are not getting hikes for several years. As first attack, the company will not give pay hikes and promotion and see whether employee will leave the job due to this. But if they find employees not resigning even after not getting any pay hikes, they will target them as part of appraisal process.

Women employees have certain special social and family responsibilities like marriage, child bearing and child care. They find it difficult to stretch a lot. So in many IT companies, women employees are seen as easy targets to meet the bulge target and they are targeted as part of appraisal process. This can be easily understood if you compare man woman ratio in any IT companies. If you take employees below age of 30, ratio between woman and men will be 45:55 where as it will be 20:80 if you take employees above age of 30.

Woman employees who are pregnant are seen as easy targets in many IT companies. I spoke with a layoff victim today. She is having 3 years of experience. She is 6 months pregnant and rated bad as part of appraisal. HR officer is asking her to submit resignation. If she resigns now and serves 2 months notice, she will be 8 months pregnant while she lost the job. If she resigns, company escapes from paying maternity benefits for the employee. This is a mockery of legal rights given to women employees by the company.

The main problem is each manager is forced to meet the count and if lady employee is pregnant, she will be going on 6 to 9 months of leave. This affects the bottom line by increasing the overall project cost for any project. So to reduce the cost of delivery, many managers target women employees who are pregnant.
This is definitely a illegal practice.

Women employees will have the following impact if they resign due to management pressure:

  1. Indian government mandated paid leave for 2 child birth for pregnant employees. The maternity benefit act has been amended to increase the duration of paid maternity leave for woman employees from the existing 12 weeks to 26 weeks. So women employees are eligible for 6 months paid leave and companies are cheating woman employees and violating the law by terminating them and not paying any benefits.
  2. If employee is terminated when she is 6 or 7 month pregnant, she will not get a new job for minimum 1 year. Many companies carried medical test during recruitment process and there are policy in some companies which fail women employees in giving offer if they found pregnant.
  3. This results in employment gap of 1 year when she starts to search for new job after child birth. So it becomes difficult for women employee to get new job at later point of time.
  4. Women employees paid insurance as part of company policies and if they got terminated, they will not be getting maternity costs includes hospitalization expenses.

Sasi Rekha is a women employee who worked in TCS. She was terminated quoting performance as reason. She filed petition in Chennai High court. She stated in her affidavit that retrenchment move of TCS is illegal and in gross violation of Industrial Disputes Act 1947. As per section 12 of Maternity Benefits Act, any pregnant employee should not be dismissed during pregnancy. So if any employee is pregnant, section 12 is applicable and terminating employee is illegal and against this act.

TCS immediately came back with a sorry face and said that the fact of Sasi Rekha being pregnant is not known to them. The company agreed to revoke the relieving letter of Sasi Rekha as exceptional case in line with its practice of not relieving any employees during pregnancy.

The Madras High Court dismissed the petition filed by Rekha after counsel for the software major said the firm has revoked the termination. The termination letter to her was issued on 22 December 2014. This petition was dismissed on Jan 20 2015 which is within less than 1 month of her termination. Sasi Rekha was reinstated back in TCS with back wages and petition cost. This case is a clear evidence on how basic protection of law help employees and how fast we can justice if we approach the court.

It is good that Sasi Rekha approached the high court for justice and she got her justice within 1 month. But sad reality is there are many other Sasi Rekhas without knowing their rihts fall prey on HR threat and submit their resignation. It is our responsibility to spread awareness about legal protection for woman employees that as per section 12 of Industrial Disputes Act, woman employees who are pregnant cannot be terminated by management.

As a manager and HR officer, we should put ourselves in lady employee shoes before targeting them as part of layoff.

We also pray IT managements to educate HR officers and managers of targeting employees who are pregnant.

HR officer told the employee whom I talked with, to search for job in 2 months time during her notice period and leave after 2 months period. She clearly mentioned that she is 6 months pregnant but still HR officer reacted badly that if she is not submitting resignation, company will initiate back end termination in the system without employee consent.

The problem is many HR officers are amateur and follow management decision blindly. They should understand that even his/her mother, wife, sister give birth to their child and torturing women employee with layoff threat during her difficult time lacks complete compassion in addition to the violation of law and employee rights.

It is also our everyone’s responsibility to spread this awareness that if we find any management torturing pregnant employee, section 12 comes as protection. If any women employee is affected with this sort of action in the past, they can approach the court to seek justice for their case.

So please pass this article to all women employees which will help have happy pregnancy days and an active career before and after child birth.

– Shyam Sundar

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