Do Indian Employers resent giving you Annual Leave?

I moved from a global company after many years to a local promoter led company, and I couldn’t help feeling the resistance to granting me my annual leave.

The first time I applied for leave I was told that the company was not doing as well as it should and that my going on leave would affect the company’s performance further. While it did sound a bit stretched at the time, the guilt that my boss induced in me was quite profound and effective. I was made to feel that I was indispensable to the betterment of the company.

But when it happened the second time and the third time, I did suspect that it had nothing to do with the company’s performance, but more to do with a general resentment to granting leave. Another colleague who unlike me went on leave dis-regarding the pleas of the owner of the company, was perpetually harassed with phone calls and other errands while he was on leave. I couldn’t help but feel that, these interruptions to my colleagues’ leave was purposeful and was meant to disrupt his holiday and make him feel guilty that he was away and how the company was suffering because he was on leave.

According to a study conducted by Towers Watson , close to half of the respondents (employees) in India reported excessive pressure at work. Around one-third of them pinned the blame on “overwhelming” productivity demands from employers.

Allowing employees to go on leave affects productivity, is a silent notion that most promoter led companies believe. This preoccupation with productivity often manifests itself in other ways as well.

  • Most promoter led companies in India follow a working Saturday culture. One of my friends who moved from a global company to a promoter led company got a culture shock when he had to work on Saturdays. However, since he took Saturday as a holiday and not a serious work day, he arrived at his first working Saturday in jeans and a t-shirt. He was immediately summoned by the promoter’s wife ( who played a significant informal role in the company ) and was ticked off that he was dressed inappropriately for a working day.
  • If promoter led companies don’t work on Saturdays, then they at least work on alternate Saturdays. This is supposed to be a compromise. Since most global companies are closed on weekends, alternate Saturdays gives the promoter led company some leeway to still extract some more productivity from the employee.
  • Typically, when announcing the annual holiday list of the year, there is a distinct difference between the multinational and the promoter led Indian company. The Indian led company will go absolutely by the rule and declare the least number of public holidays. Often the holiday list will even include Sundays when important festivals unfortunately appear on those days in a given year. This is a signal that the company is happy to give them the public holidays but it so unfortunate that they come on a Sunday!

Work-life Balance in India

About 63% of Indian respondents feel they are vacation-deprived according to a survey conducted by Expedia a few years ago.. The company conducted an online survey in which 8,535 respondents from 24 countries took part.

“Indians are second, behind Thailand (22%), in not taking leaves to be in boss’s good books, while 18% of Indians don’t use all the leaves because they fear that taking all of the vacation time will be perceived negatively by their employer,” said the survey.

Indians also prefer getting money in exchange for unused holidays, with 37% of the employed adult population, the highest in the world, opting for it. Brazil follows India with 30% of employed people preferring money over holidays.

India has been ranked as the fourth most vacation deprived country globally, as 63 per cent take fewer days of the vacations that they get, according to to a report.

“After Spain (68 per cent), UAE (68 per cent), Malaysia (67 per cent) and South Korea (64 per cent), India is ranked as the fourth most vacation deprived country globally,” according to Expedia ‘Vacation Deprivation report 2016’.

The report revealed that 40 per cent Indians don’t use all vacation days as work schedule does not allow for vacation or don’t have enough staff to cover and 32 per cent are not able to take vacation days due to personal schedule.

So the next time you get a lucrative offer from a company, make sure that it is not going to affect your vacation time! That is if you value your vacation and don’t think that work- life balance is just a bad joke!

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Prabhakar Mundkur has spent 40 years in advertising and worked in India, Africa and Asia. He is currently Chief Mentor with HGS Interactive a part of HGS in the Hinduja Group. He is on the advisory board of Sol 's Arc (solsarc.org ) an NGO dedicated to special education for intellectually challenged children. He is also a member of Whiteboard ( whiteboardindia.org ) which supports senior management of NGOs in financial management, PR, Communication and HR through pro bono expertise.

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