The Right to Disconnect has been making news off late in the dailies and talks about the ever-so-unstable Indian work-life balance. There are between 1.1 to 1.3 million active companies in India that hire a huge chunk of the brains and form “Corporate India,” and this bill directly affects them!
The Right to Disconnect Bill was introduced by MP Supriya Sule in the Lok Sabha. The salient features of the bill are:
- Reducing stress and easing tension between an employee’s personal and professional life
- The right to not respond to calls or any kind of communication from the employer after office hours
- Setting up of an Employee Welfare Authority, which will publish reports related to the impact employees have from prolonged use of digital tools beyond office hours and it will also create a charter defining employee-employer negotiation
- Companies with more than 10 employees would periodically negotiate specific terms with their workers, publish their own charter, and create an Employee Welfare Committee consisting of representatives of the company’s workforce.
This is a private bill, that is, it would apply to a particular group of individuals or companies.
We are an IT company, primarily dealing in software exports. Just to let you know the size of the industry, in 2017 more than $160 billion were generated in the international and domestic Indian IT market, with the exports generating more than 60% of the revenue.
Here we try to explain why this bill (if it ever becomes an act) will not be the best for our Industry:
- Huge Learning Curve – The Indian tech. industry survives on brain power and the ability to learn new skills. Unfortunately learning these skills takes time, especially for those just starting their careers. As we were taught by our professors that you must burn the midnight oil, the same applies here and if we take away that and make 9-5 the norm, we inculcate an attitude of complacency giving rise to “Let’s do this tomorrow”. Let us not kill the little bit of research minds we have left in India.
- Who takes care of the missed deadlines? – With a population of 1.35 Billion and shrinking resources, there is huge competition. In every field you go, right from school admissions to your promotions, you have to ensure you are the best; the same applies for companies. With limited margins and tight deadlines, if the focus of the team is always on the clock rather than their tasks then God save the client.
- Efficiency is not something that can be calculated easily – Consider the following example – Person A finishes a task in 5 hours, B finishes the same task in 3 hours. A knows that he is slower and as a result spends a couple of hours extra to ensure that the task is completed. Till now no one has a problem because we understand that no 2 people are alike. So, A is classified as hard worker. Now the new rule comes into being. A suddenly becomes a liability because now the company is the one penalized for A’s extra 2 hours. Should the company hire another B and let go of A? Hope this example has help explain the conundrum.
- Dependence on the International Market – A lot of our business is dependent on the international market and hence sometimes the hours get stretched. The clients’ business hours are during India’s non-business hours. There is a huge conflict of interest here for companies who work in servicing overseas clientele for projects where coordination is key. There is an old saying, “Be where the money is”- and if the Indian companies start throwing tantrums, then there are multiple places (including other countries), where the work can be done.
- Comparing apples and oranges – The bill has been proposed after seeing the work-life balance in France and Germany. Not sure that a comparison between developed countries with developing countries is justified! The per capita income of India is 1/7th of Germany and 1/6th of France. This is not a fair comparison.
At the end of the day, we are forgetting that the people of India work differently than those in the western countries to which this is being compared to. The western countries are strict about being on the clock and off the clock, deadlines are hard and tea, cigarette breaks are minimal and do not count towards office hours.
Do not get us wrong, work-life balance is important and should be recognized at an organizational level. Having a law that dictates a practice that does not work for all is not only unfair, but poorly recommended.
With these points, we have only scratched the surface of the issues that may come into being if this becomes an act. There are finer details, but we will keep them ready if this bill even gets discussed leave aside becoming an act.
What do you think of the bill? Let us know in the comments.