Start-ups luring staff with six-month paternity, pick-and-choose benefits

Paternity leave for six months and the freedom to pick and choose benefits suited to one’s needs are some of the new policy initiatives that the new-age tech start-ups are incorporating to lure potential employees and retain existing ones. In creating ‘holistic workplaces’ Human Resource departments are finally looking beyond bean bags, football tables and alcohol-fuelled parties, to create inclusive workspaces and closing the gap between the benefits enjoyed by women and men.

The new initiatives of some of these firms are also aimed at bringing in a work-life balance as an integral part of the work culture.

For many established start-ups and major firms such as Flipkart, Amazon India and Zomato, being known as a good employer is as important as market share and financial targets. Shifting focus to employee-friendly policies is not only helping them retain talent, but is also helping them creates goodwill outside.

Giving fathers a chance

In a country where more than a week’s paternity leave is not allowed, Deepinder Goyal, founder of food delivery app Zomato, created quite a stir when he wrote a blogpost announcing that his company would give 26 weeks of paid paternity leave. That’s about six months of time to ease into parenthood. This policy also applies to non-birthing parents in cases of surrogacy, adoption and same-sex partners.

“For women across the globe -- we have teams in 13 countries as we speak -- we will be offering 26 weeks paid leave, or will follow the government mandated policy, whichever is more. We will be offering exactly the same benefits to men as well. There won’t be even an iota of difference in parental leave policy for men and women at Zomato, going forward,” he said in his blog on the Zomato portal. The move has made other such firms look at their HR policies and give importance to paternity leave. 

This isn't the first time the company, now more than a decade old, has looked out for its employees. Over the past few months, Zomato experimented with the concept of removing the probation period clause from the employment contracts for some if its new recruits.

The power to choose

Flipkart has introduced its new inclusive benefits programme - FlexBen 2019, for its employees. The initiative is a result of an engagement survey conducted with the employees, to understand their preferences. It aims at providing them the freedom to choose benefits based on their individual needs, including both insurance and non-insurance options. A company survey revealed that around 50 per cent of Flipkart employees choose benefits and policies as an important attraction and retention driver.

The programme is designed in a manner that addresses recent employee requests where 20 per cent employees asked for more flexibility in benefits and 10 per cent asked for wellness centres and gym benefits.

“Recognising the fact that today's workforce is diverse and can have varied personal and professional needs, we have recently introduced the FlexBen programme. The programme will offer greater flexibility and choice in selecting and funding employee benefits, allowing them to customise their benefits package based on their individual needs," said Smriti Krishna Singh, Chief Human Resources Officer at Flipkart. The company offers coverage for same sex couples, choice of additional child-care or parent-care coverage and more options for single employees.

Striving to be the best place to work

It takes a lot of hard work to be selected as the country’s best employer, more so if the global track record in this regard has not been great to say the least. Amazon India was recently named the country’s most ‘attractive employer brand’, according to the findings of Randstad Employer Brand Research (REBR) 2019.

The company, which has more than 50,000 direct and indirect employees in India, has been steadily been expanding operations during the past five years. According to the REBR 2019, Amazon scored high on financial health, utilisation of latest technologies and a strong reputation.

“Amazon India teams have witnessed phenomenal growth in the last few years, which has led us to invest in innovative solutions in the areas of building managerial capability, assimilating employees through efforts such as EPIC (Experience, Practice and Immerse in Culture), improving recognition, creating internal talent pipelines, creating alternate career paths for employees, and improving diversity,” the company said.

It runs an initiative called Rekindle, which is designed to encourage women on a professional break to resume their corporate careers through structured on-boarding, focused mentoring and on the job training. Through this initiative, Amazon provides opportunities to support women, who intend to professionally re-integrate and recommence their job.

In an email sent to senior team members last year, Amazon India head Amit Agarwal asked employees to allocate enough time for themselves apart from work, and maintain a healthy “work-life harmony”.

"We will have occasions and commitments that require us to actually want to be engaged at odd hours, and even over multiple days. That is what owners do -- step up and do what it takes. But by not making this our normal day, we will actually enjoy these moments,” he wrote.

He went on to ask employees to be more sensitive while making comments such as ‘half-day leave’ and ‘first shift’ about someone who might be taking early leave. Moreover, he asked them to steer away from forming negative perceptions around employees availing flexible working hours or work-from-home.