Women in FIEUN

WOMEN ISSUES AT WORKPLACE IN CONTEXT OF NEPALESE ORGANIZATION

 INTRODUCTION

Globalization and technological progression have changed workforce demographics and brought bizarre development prospects for most of employees and in this twenty first century, numbers of female employees are increasing frequently in almost every service sectors of most of the organization. Likewise, we can see women employee ratio in increasing state in banking sector also in recent years. Women have become equal contributors in many respects at all levels of the society. The future would see more women speculating into different areas traditionally conquered by men. This will lead to income generation and greater sense of fulfillment among women.

In most of the developed countries, governments are providing special facilities for women’s development and efforts are being made to extract maximum of their talent. In spite of growing number of female employees in almost all working sectors, opportunities are still disproportionately distributed and women, especially in developing countries, continue to face discrimination at home and at work. According to ILO recent Report, The current global labor force participation rate for women is just over 49%. For men, it’s 76%. That’s a difference of nearly 27 percentage points. According to various researches in Nepal by different international organizations (UNDP, JICA, ILO) very few women are enrolled in service sector and formal jobs in Nepal. There are certain barriers that they have to eliminate to establish themselves valuable for the professional market. The factors such as workplace environment, facilities, working conditions play vital role in level of job satisfaction and also to enhance their existing potential. Research indicates that employees who are fully satisfied with different situation and facility given by their organization are more committed to the organization ultimately leading to productivity of the organization. And women as being a creator of the world and also being physically delicate (as they give birth to baby) by nature have more necessities and different working conditions than their male counterparts.

In Nepal, service sector has opened up many career opportunities for women, but at the same time employment in this sector has had bring together many challenges and issues  like workplace harassment, limited facilities for maternity provisions and also lack of decent and secure working environment, which has  affected women employees “job-satisfaction” and “job-security”  in many different ways. Including above issues, workplace harassment has been a topic of increasing interest since earlier years. Several studies have been carried out to better understand the existing background and consequences of being exposed to negative acts at work during a long duration of time. However, there are no validated instruments in Nepal to map workplace harassments.

WORKPLACE HARSSMENT AND ITS EFFECT

Workplace harassment has become a silent epidemic in North America, one that has huge hidden costs in terms of employee well-being and productivity. Also known as psychological harassment or emotional abuse, bullying involves the conscious repeated effort to wound and seriously harm another person, not with violence, but with words and actions. Bullying (Negative-Acts) damages the physical, emotional and mental health of the person who is targeted. Many studies published in the journal, reveals a spiral of abuse in which the victims of harassment become anxious, leaving them less able to stand up for themselves and more vulnerable to further  harassment. The research suggests that employers should not only crack down on workplace bullies, but also help victims gain the skills to cope with difficult situations.  According to one study by Ana Sanz Vergel, from the University of East Anglia’s Norwich Business School, it shows that the relationship between workplace bullying (harassment) and the psychological impact on victims is much more complex than expected. Examples of bullying (harassment) at work include offending, or socially excluding someone repeatedly over a period of time (seldom or frequent).

WOMEN PREVAILING ISSUES IN NEPALESE ORGANIZATION

Sustainable Development Goal has specifically focused on inclusive economic growth, employment and decent work. Transforming the national economy in a way that increases the number of quality jobs is essential for sustainable development. From an economic perspective, reducing gender gaps in labor force participation could substantially boost global GDP. Decent work means opportunities for every­one to find employment that is prolific and that delivers fair revenue, security in the workplace, social protection for families, better projections for personal development and social integration. Additionally, it is important that all women and men are given equal opportuni­ties in the workplace.

Female comprise 31% of all paid workers as against 69% male (Nepal’s CBS, 2001a).There is a huge income-gap between men and women both in terms of opportunities for employment/income generation and in the proportion of earned income; resulting in women to remain in poverty status.  According to report from six partner organizations INSEC, NBI, IHRICON, Forum for Women Law and Development (FWLD), International Alert and Safer-world on Women’s insecurities and the workplace in Nepal, women encounter multiple challenges to their full participation in the working environment, and that existing equality legislation, limited though it is, is not adequately implemented. Women also face many difficulties to get a long maternity leave and had difficulty securing leave for vacations or public holidays.

Harassment in workplaces is a common but underreported experience for women. Working women face different types of insecurity at the workplace – from different groups at work. However, they are unlikely to report such cases to their supervisors or to security providers. There was reluctance from the employers’ side (especially by male employers) to implement legislation and other mechanisms against sexual harassment at the workplace as they see them mainly as additional restrictions, or financial burdens or losses.

Nepal has a persistent problem of low economic growth attached with important under-employment. One of the reasons behind such issue is lack of women participation in the working economy. According to one research study (Coyle, D., Shrestha, R., Thapa, J.C., 2014), there are various factors such as:

1.Gender Based Discrimination,

2. Domestic Restrictions,

3. Harassment at Workplace,

4. Lower Payscale,

5. Married Working Women,

6. Negative Attitudes of Male co-workers 

7. Transportation Problems

which are responsible for making workplace insecure for women employees in Nepal. Workplace Bullying and Harassment are another main problems faced by working women, as they are considered an easy target by the male colleagues. According to research study, informal sector working women in Nepal are much vulnerable and colleagues and higher management harass them by passing unsuitable remarks or making fun of them or in extreme cases they harass them sexually.

LOCAL AND GLOBAL ACTION OF UNIONS AND AGENCIES

Various initiatives are being taken by International and national level unions against workplace harassment and gender-based violence. Panelists at the Solidarity Center session, “Eliminating Gender-Based Violence in the World of Work,” explored how unions enable workers, especially women workers, to speak up when experiencing sexual harassment and other violence on the job by providing a network of peer support. There is a strong belief of unionists that women are empowering themselves through unions if their voices are being raised through some agencies. International Labor Organization (ILO) convention has also been implemented on ending gender-based violence. The ITUC (International Trade Union Confederation) sponsored the panel, “Stop Gender-Based Violence (GBV) in the World of Work Campaign: How to Support an ILO Convention.”

Other type of action plan taken by International and National level unions to stop gender-based violence and stop workplace harassments are through the following,

Training: The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) strappingly advocates training to employees on nondiscrimination and anti-harassment at workplace.

  1. Policy: Unions are exercising from their side in enforcing written company policy which is another effective program that reduces racism and discrimination.
  2. Awareness: Unions are regularly exercising from their part to generate awareness among both employees and employers inside the organization. The programs such as diversity awareness focus more on the factors that improve workplace relationships such as mutual respect and appreciation for differences as well as similarities.

Nepal government has recently passed laws against sexual harassment to support working women. Some of the key initiatives undertaken by the state to address gender based violence and promote the rights of women and girls through policies and laws in Nepal are: 1 Sexual Harassment at the Workplace in Nepal Prevention Act, 2015 (2071), 2. Gender Equality Act, passed in 2006. 3. The National Plan of Action Against Gender Based Violence 2010 and the Five Year National Strategy and Action Plan to End Gender Based Violence (2012- 2016). But, it is difficult for women employees to find the place or right authorities to report such type of negative behavior and as a result such issues remains unreported.

Trade unions have also played a role in addressing the problem of sexual harassment. In organizations where policies have not been introduced, trade unions have sometimes taken ad-hoc action on receiving a complaint, and managed to achieve recognition for the problem and redress for the victim. Recently two trade unions of Nepalese Finance Sector (SBI Bank Nepal and Surya Life Insurance) have implemented Policy as a code of conduct against Sexual Harassment in their organization’s HR Bylaw, committing to develop the zero-tolerance culture towards harassment against women in the workplaces.

Recently, one of the national levels Trade Union of Nepal, FIEUN (Financial Institution Employees Union Nepal) has done a novel survey on obtaining information about working conditions, environment and existing facilities available and prevalence of workplace harassment to women employees of Nepalese Finance Sector (NFS). This study has found that Nepalese Finance Sector (NFS) women employees are partially satisfied with the existing facilities provided to them. The research reveals that the most essential provisions like maternity leave duration, Maternity leave allowance, baby care facilities and salary at maternity leave are very much less and are being neglected by by-law. As the highest percentage of women employees claims that they are getting maternity leave for the duration of 1 to 2 months only. This result applies in the context of both public and private sector organizations. As the neighboring country’s government (such as India, Malaysia) and other developed countries governments have amplified facilities of maternity leave and other maternity related provisions. But, the achieved results have shown that even the formal sector organizations are not working on increasing such facilities to women employees. The study has also found that there is 0% baby care facilities in NFS and only 40% of women employees are getting maternity allowance. Therefore, such result reveals the NFS’s (banks, insurance companies) and Trade union together need to work on developing policy on extending such maternity provisions to support women employees as these sectors represent the formal sector of overall Nepalese organizations.

The result of information related to workplace harassment divulges that women employees of private sector feel their job less secure than public sector women employees due to various types of negative acts such as unmanageable work load, low competency task, ignored opinion they face in their workplace. Nepalese finance sector organizations needs to revise their existing working facilities by providing training to ladies staffs, by accepting their opinions, exploring them for new opportunities and career advancements, make provisions for maternity leave and baby care facilities to motivate women employees in organizations. The result also shows that workplace harassment has many negative impacts upon women employees like irritability, loss of confidence and anxiety. Therefore, such negative acts which harass women in workplace should be avoided by effective implementing a code of conduct at individual organization. And Trade Union should play a leading role to implement such provisions and should walk off for collective bargaining and policy revision.

A WAY FORWARD AND FUTURE INITIATIVES

There are certain initiative steps that International and national level unions must put into effort by handshaking with government in order to implement effective gender-neutral and anti-discrimination policies to support women workers at their workplace. And there are, 1. Achieve equal pay: The principle of equal remuneration for work of equal value must be protected in law and promoted in practice. 2. Tackle occupational segregation: Women tend to be over-represented in occupations perceived as unskilled and “low-value”, particularly in care jobs. Preconceptions about the value of certain types of work can be challenged through education, public outreach and job evaluation systems. 3. Eliminate discrimination: Many countries have explicit legislation against gender discrimination and harassment at work. While important, this is not enough. Additional measures, such as effective remedies, dissuasive sanctions, specialized equality bodies and public awareness campaigns are keys to eliminating discrimination. 4. Promote work–family balance: Many women and men lack access to adequate maternity protection, paid paternity and parental leave and other basic social protection measures. Policy reforms should acknowledge that the bulk of unpaid family and household work is currently performed by women. 5. Create quality care jobs: Care professions – in which women are over-represented – have a long history of poor regulation and protection. Promoting decent work for care professionals, including domestic and migrant workers, is essential. 6. Guard against downturns: Due to their increased likelihood of being in vulnerable or informal employment, women are disproportionately impacted by economic crises. Safeguards against the effects of economic downturns need to be complemented by gender-responsive policies, including efforts to formalize jobs in the informal economy.