Ten years ago, all of us would have heartily laughed at the concept of creating a leave structure around pets, pollution and climate. All such unpredicted and unanticipated concepts are turning into reality in the current world of today. In fact the benefit structure will further shape in the future of work which will have more unconventional, dynamic, uncanny, flexible and innovative leave-benefits framework.
For the time being, let us take a sneak peek into what new changes and disruptive developments are taking place in context of such leave benefits at workplace.
A software company based in New York City named Fog Creek, announced 5 days of climate leave for its employees. Stack Overflow (a Manhattan based tech firm) and Cylinder (a California based design consulting firm) too are considering formalizing such leaves for their workforce. This is for employees who are unable work due to extreme weather events.
The recent tropical cyclones of Harvey and Irma which had left around 6.2 million Florida homes in the dark had highlighted the need for such climate leaves. Reports from Florida during Irma found that, there were some employers who pressurized workers into showing up for work despite an evacuation order from the governor. According to a study by workers’ rights organization Central Florida Jobs with Justice, employees were threatened of losing their jobs for not showing up to work during Hurricane Irma.
In fact, this brings me to a reference of a perennial problem faced in India every year. Mumbai – the financial, commercial and entertainment hub of India is challenged with torrential rains during a fixed period of time every year. Mumbai rains bring havoc and disruption leading to chaos in work life due to safety hazards and traffic snarls year on year. This type of a case may tend to fall under the purview of climate affected leave. And hence the need to formalize this new category of necessary perk called ‘climate leave’ as seen in Fog Creek’s case.
Another inter-related and extension of climatic pain, but this one surely is created by us humans is ‘air pollution’. In some cities of India, there’s huge struggle even to breathe for some days of the year. For past 2 years, most of the schools are declared off for 4-7 days every year in Delhi and NCR due to the alarming level of increase in pollution. A point worth consciously deliberating of allowing a paid time off which can be availed by employees when the level of pollution reaches the red zone ‘severe limit’ in the PM2.5 monitoring machine. Using mask, working from home and car pooling are some of the safeguarding options, but it will not be a farfetched future when you will see organizations taking this into account while framing their leave benefit frameworks soon.
BrewDog, a beer company based in Aberdeenshire, United Kingdom, announced a policy of ‘Puppy Paternity Leave’. Dogs are a part of the core values of their company and they feel that having dogs makes everyone relaxed and happy. Mars Petcare was one of the first companies to offer pawternity leave of ten hours of paid leave when they get a new pet. BitSol Solutions, a tech company based in Manchester offers a week of paid leave for the same as they feel that Pets are like babies and hence employees are must have some time off when they arrive.
A week paid leave for the purchase and adoption of a new dog is difficult to visualize in context of Indian scenario and mindset. Here, most companies do not have adequate leave policies for employees to take care of their ageing parents, new born infants and their own teenaged children. A highly populated country where the value of humanity is being tested, with a majority of masses trying to find some slightest sort of work life balancel, such thought of getting a ‘pawternity’ leave sounds like a sarcasm on the face of it.
Social Disruptive Leave
Can you recall the Jat Quota stir and the infamous Ram Rahim case in Haryana which had paralyzed and disrupted the entire state? Most of the offices had issued advisory notices to take offs or work from home owing to state level emergency caused by hooligans or whatever you may want to call them. Generally an organization does not take these into consideration while framing the leave structure, due to which a pressure is created for both parties – employer and employees. While some organizations might not trouble employees for failing to appear during such scenarios, but still the loss of one day of pay or unnecessary leave make many workers worry about their paychecks. And many hourly workers in fact, may not get paid at all. Formalizing an employer-friendly ‘extreme situation’ leave policy gives the affected employees more confidence and enhances their loyalty towards the organization they work for.
Apart from traditional policies, an unconventional yet employee friendly situational leave category can be introduced by leaders to accommodate all such types of contingent cases. In fact, recently a Japanese firm, Piala Inc, has introduced 6 days of paid leave to its non-smoking employees. They have used the right strategy that will encourage employees to quit smoking through incentivizing them rather than using a negative reinforcement method of penalty or coercion. Such unorthodox and free spirited thinking is the new way forward in the future of work. We will have to wait to see how these will fit and drive the Indian work environment.