Safety of Women During Night Shifts

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Indian Work Culture

Our work culture, is it safe for women? Work cultures differ from country to country. Some adhere to the nine-to-five culture to promote work-life balance. Others like India have a grueling nine-to-nine culture. This of course is accompanied by long lunches and breaks for refueling.

The 2000’s saw a wave of call center jobs entering India. It was economical for foreign companies to off-share their services, thereby creating thousands of jobs for Indians. However, there was only one catch. Due to the time difference, call center employees in India had to work through the night to assist foreign customers during the day.

However working at night was not a new concept. Other professions including medicine, police and the restaurant industry also demand night shifts.

But how did that impact the country’s female population? Did it casts doubts on workplace safety and the commuting to and from work? Does this work-style accommodate an Indian woman’s traditional role in a household?

Safety On Our Minds

With sexual violence on the rise in India, there is one fundamental concern: safety, safety, safety. What time is she coming home from work? Is it safe for her to stay this late in the office? By herself? Are there security guards and cameras? How is she coming back home? Is she driving? Tell her to keep the windows and doors locked. Is she calling a taxi? Send me the car and driver details. Ask her to share her location. Public transport?! No way. Too dangerous. I’ll just pick her up. 

Lack Of Safety

The concern for a woman’s safety borderlines paranoia; however it stems from a real fear of assault. 47% of Indian women find sexual harassment a topmost issue at work. In the #metoo era, stories of workplace harassment across industries validate this fear. Harassment includes stalking, staring, verbal and physical attacks. Most of these actions go unreported, due to the passive aggressive nature of these crimes. Nevertheless, unreported does not mean unnoticed. It not only builds an unhealthy and stressful workplace environment. One that might discourage women to stay late at the workplace. There is a real fear of harassment turning into assault. 

Where there is fear of assault at the workplace, there is a greater fear of assault in the commute. Reported cases in India have only lent themselves as real-time evidence. The infamous 2012 Delhi gang rape that occurred on a moving bus questioned the safety of travelling by the cheapest mode of transportation. In November 2019, we mourned the loss of Priyanka Reddy, a veterinarian who was raped and murdered while returning from work on her scooter at 9 pm. In 2014, a rape case against an uber driver created a dilemma for the US-based company. India temporarily banned Uber as it was failing to perform sufficient background checks on its drivers. 

Addressing The Issue Of Safety

Unfortunately, the legal framework tackling workplace safety for women, is still very limited. The Shops and Establishment Act of 1953 refrains women from working on premises after 9:30pm. The Mines Act of 1952 only allows women to work on site between 6am and 7pm. Likewise, many acts have been passed to promote “safety for women.” However, these acts are gender discriminatory and outdated. It limits opportunities for women, especially those who require such shift jobs to provide for their families. 

While there is a need to address the safety concern at the workplace, banning women from working is not a solution. Companies must do a better job at addressing safety concerns. Training sessions and seminars help prepare employees as such. A study conducted by HERrespect has shown positive results conducting these training sessions. Additional security measures like night-time transportation services, CCTV and alarm systems are extremely beneficial in ensuring safety. Companies in the IT sector must carry out adequate security measure.

While companies do their bit to ensure employee safety, the State must put enforcement in place to ensure the security of roads and localities. There is also a dire need for a proper response time to emergency calls. India recently launched the number “112” for emergency calls related to public safety.

Work-Life Balance and Stigma

Indian women have held an age-old role of being the caregiver of the household. And while they have worked towards breaking the glass ceiling, they still carry the burden of their traditional household duties. Even today, a woman’s career can be at risk if family duties call. Thus, when it comes to women working late nights, there is a fat chance for it to be a source of conflict in families.

Many Indian household believe that it is not dignified for a woman to be out late, even if working. Jobs with night shifts are a no-no. Families prefer their women to be unemployed rather than work the night shift. Disapproval from the family can not only discourage women to prioritize their careers but seriously hamper it.

Support From All Sides

While women make up 48.1% of the Indian population only 24% of them participated in the labor force in 2018. If we bench half of its population, how will the Indian economy progress? Families must change their traditional mindsets. They should not only encourage a woman to pursue her career but must also accommodate the late night work-style if her job demands it. We need security and support from all sides until women working the nightshift is not a concern but just a job. 

About The Author

Deepa Chandrachud recently completed her Bachelor’s degree in Finance from Bentley University. She is deeply passionate about gender equality and hopes to use this platform to create more awareness about issues pertaining to women’s rights.  

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Image Source: Akswrites

This blog is edited by Dr. Shruti Kapoor