At 9 pm on Saturday evening, Rashika, a Joint Secretary, was still engrossed in her work in her office. Her husband, Vikram, is an executive in an MNC and frequently out of town in connection with his work. Their two children aged 5 and 3 are looked after by their domestic helper. At 9:30 pm her superior, Mr. Suresh calls her and asks her to prepare a detailed note on an important matter to be discussed in a meeting in the Ministry. She realises that she will have to work on Sunday to finish the additional task given by her superior. She reflects on how she had asked forward to the posting and had worked long hours for months to achieve it, he had kept the welfare of people uppermost in discharging her duties. She feels that she has not done enough Justice to her family and she has not fulfilled her duties in discharging essential social obligations. Even as recently as last month she had to leave her sick child in the nanny’s care as she had to work in the office. No, she feels that she must draw a line, beyond which her personal life should take precedence over her professional responsibilities. She thinks that there should be reasonable limits to the work ethics such as punctuality, hard work, dedication to duty and selfless service. (a): Discuss the ethical issue involved in this case. (b): Briefly describe at least four laws that have been enacted by the Government with respect to providing a healthy, safe and equitable working environment for women. (c): Imagine you are in a similar situation. What suggestions would you make to mitigate such working conditions?

(a) Ethical Issues Involved in This Case:

  1. Work-Life Balance: The balance between professional duties and personal responsibilities is a critical issue. While dedication to one’s job is commendable, continuous neglect of personal life can be detrimental to mental and emotional well-being.
  2. Excessive Work Demands: Assigning work late at night and expecting it to be ready by the next day can be seen as an unfair demand, especially without considering an employee’s personal circumstances.
  3. Employee Welfare: Employers have a responsibility to ensure that their employees are not overworked to the point of burnout or are neglecting their personal lives excessively.
  4. Family Obligations: In many cultures and societies, familial responsibilities, especially towards young children, are paramount. A continuous imbalance can lead to familial strains.
  5. Gender Dynamics: Women, especially in traditional societies, often juggle between their professional roles and societal expectations of them as caregivers. There’s an inherent ethical consideration in how women are treated in workplaces in light of these dual pressures.

(b) Four Laws Enacted by the Government for a Healthy, Safe, and Equitable Working Environment for Women:

  1. The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal) Act, 2013: This law aims to protect women from sexual harassment at their place of work. It mandates the setting up of Internal Complaints Committees in organizations.
  2. The Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 (Amended in 2017): The act protects the employment of women during the time of her maternity and entitles her full paid absence from work to take care of her child. The 2017 amendment increased the duration of paid maternity leave available for women employees from the existing 12 weeks to 26 weeks.
  3. The Equal Remuneration Act, 1976: This act prevents discrimination in terms of remuneration. It provides for the payment of equal recompense to men and women workers for the same work done.
  4. Factories Act, 1948: This law mandates safe working conditions for women, prohibiting them from working near certain machines and from lifting heavy weights, and also prescribes working hours. It ensures that women aren’t assigned night shifts and that the workspace is secure for them.

(c) Suggestions to Mitigate Such Working Conditions:

  1. Flexible Work Hours: Organizations can implement flexible working hours, allowing employees to choose when they start and finish work within a broad range.
  2. Work From Home Option: Allowing employees, when possible, to work from home can help them manage personal responsibilities better.
  3. Child Care Facilities: Organizations can provide childcare facilities or tie up with nearby childcare centers to assist employees with young children.
  4. Mental Health Support: Provide counseling and mental health support for employees feeling overwhelmed or stressed.
  5. Clear Communication: Employees should be encouraged to communicate with their superiors about their personal commitments and negotiate a feasible working schedule.
  6. Boundaries on Work Hours: Unless in emergencies, employees shouldn’t be asked to work beyond reasonable hours, especially late into the night or on weekends.
  7. Regular Reviews: Conduct regular reviews of workloads to ensure no employee is consistently overburdened.

Implementing such measures would not only assist in the well-being of the employees but also result in increased productivity and job satisfaction.

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