Paid leave for sex change
MUMBAI: Prahasini Arumugam, an employee of RBS India, is undergoing a major transition in life, which is not restricted to a mere name change. She started her career with the bank 11 years ago — when she was a man. Seven months into hormone treatment, she is now looking forward to a sexual reassignment surgery to completely transform into a woman. When Prahasini decided to take this bold step, she wanted to quit her job and start afresh. RBS India urged her to stay back, and vouched to support her in this journey.
A delivery analyst working as part of the payment operations team at RBS India, it was way back in high school, when Prahasini was Prabhu, that she first realised this fact about herself. Corporate corridors then weren’t even talking about inclusion in the true sense. Companies had just about woken up to bettering gender-diversity ratios between male and female employees. There were fewer rainbow networks to begin with.
The monetary bit is one aspect… It’s a life change. 95% of such people start their life all over again, move jobs and countries. It requires a lot of counselling and in-house support
After the write-down of Article 377 by the Supreme Court, however, several organisations are now making policy changes that help LGBTQ staff. Prahasini is in discussions with RBS India on how the company can aid her in completing the gender transition.
“I will require leave and, more importantly, financial assistance. Such surgeries require 1.5 months of complete recovery, wherein I will not be able to go to office or even work from home. RBS India has said they are reviewing the policies for transgender persons. I am awaiting a communication to this effect,” she said.
A sexual re-assignment surgery can cost up to Rs 2 lakh. “The monetary bit is one aspect and can be provided through insurance companies or through company funds. It’s the non-monetary aspect that is tricky and needs a lot of support to go through. It’s a life change for anybody undergoing this. There can be a sense of fear and anxiety — 95% of such people start their life all over again, move jobs and countries. It requires a lot of counselling and in-house support,” said RBS India diversity officer Reeti Dubey.
Companies look to extend perks to LGBTQ staff
Another company that has introduced new policies to support LGBTQ employees is Tech Mahindra. “We are offering 30 days’ paid leave to any associate who wishes to undergo a sexual reassignment surgery. According to the policy, we maintain complete confidentiality and provide counselling to the individual and the team. We are talking to insurance companies to rework the medical expenses, subject to IRDAI allowing it,” said Tech Mahindra chief people officer Harshvendra Soin.
Last year, Tech Mahindra was embroiled in a controversy that broke on social media when an ex-employee accused a former manager of discriminating against his sexual orientation. An investigation led to the sacking of the manager in question. Today, Tech Mahindra has endorsed several changes, such as incorporating the third gender in all its forms and a policy on dress code that provides a guideline but doesn’t impose on its associates. “We have also introduced gender-neutral changing rooms and toilets. We have a D&I (diversity and inclusion) policy that is clearly laid out and all aspects under it are non-negotiable,” added Soin.
VLCC global head of HR operations & people analytics, Pranav Jyoti, said the firm has a good number of employees who fall under the LGBTQ segment. “If any of these employees need time for a sex-change surgery or a similar requirement, they will be granted medical leave on the basis of their band,” said Jyoti.
We have introduced gender-neutral changing rooms and toilets and have a D&I (diversity and inclusion) policy that is clearly laid out and is non-negotiable
Last year, RBS India introduced a policy that extended medical cover to same-sex partners. This is being extended to relocation as well. The bank has revised benefits to make them more inclusive by removing exclusionary language, like traditional definitions of the term ‘family’.
But while workplaces are transforming to become truly inclusive, LGBTQ people face a tough battle in society. Prahasini’s immediate family is yet to completely accept her. “I need to give them some time to do so,” she said. Given the meaning of her name (a girl who is continuously cheerful), Prahasini should come out smiling.