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India Inc puts employee well-being first, extends helping hand

A few rockstar companies are going the extra mile to help stricken employees amid an unprecedented health crisis, demonstrating empathy and earning praise.

Glassware company Borosil Ltd announced last week that the family of employees who lose their lives to covid-19 will be given two years’ salary, and the cost of their children’s education will be borne by the company till graduation.

On Twitter, Borosil’s managing director Shreevar Kheruka, said that the real assets of Borosil are not reflected in its balance sheet at all.

“We need to protect these assets in whatever way we can,” he wrote.

With this, Borosil joined the league of companies in India that have extended a helping hand to employees who are stretched to their limits, even as the deadly coronavirus is snuffing out lives by the thousands every day.

Company officials said the first wave of the pandemic had caught companies off-guard. As companies navigated the crisis, they realized that their human resources needed equal attention too.

So, when Hindustan Unilever Ltd decided to vaccinate its employees as well as their families, it extended the same to its vendors and their associates, including people working for its suppliers, distributors and Shakti Ammas—women entrepreneurs hired by the company in villages—numbering about 300,000.

A similar employee-first culture is seen at Britannia Industries Ltd as well. The biscuit maker said it is ready to withstand an impact on its distribution operations, rather than putting the lives of its sales executives on the line during the pandemic.

“In times like these, we are actually asking our salespeople not to go to the market. So again, we are going to see a downtrend as far as our distribution is concerned,” said Varun Berry, managing director of Britannia Industries.

Many companies have become more generous with leaves, granting special wellness leaves, vaccination leaves, and mid-week breaks for their employees, along with providing staff access to mental and health care services.

“When we first faced a lockdown (during March-May 2020), there were lots of uncertainties. As we progressed, we realized that it’s not that bad in terms of business, and we even started looking out for opportunities,” said Sumant Sinha, chairman, and managing director, ReNew Power—adding that employee well-being, both physical and mental—have become the focus for his company during the pandemic.

“If you don’t stand with your employees in such times, then who will? This is the time of need, and that’s why we are helping our employees. We have allocated money (for the pandemic), and the board has been supportive. We are doing this because it’s the right thing to do and not because it’s good for business,” he said.

According to management guru Ram Charan, who advises several top companies, corporates should focus on the well-being of their employees instead of just looking at ways to shore up their finances during the crisis.

“The ongoing pandemic has taught companies important lessons, which include caring for the physical and mental well-being of employees. Every business leader will have to deal with the present by keeping their feet on the ground and build their future while confronting the realities of today,” said Charan.

Suneera Tandon in Delhi contributed to the story.

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