Chennai, Sep 18: Agree to sell policies and head single-person offices outside the major cities, or get used to missing promotion for two years, the National Insurance Company Ltd. has told its employees, officials in Tamil Nadu said Wednesday.
The dream of clambering a step up the organisational ladder turned sour for some women employees of National Insurance, as the firm told even those employees who had put in about 25 years of service in the clerical cadre to head a micro/single-person office located outside the city.
As per company rules, if an employee chooses to turn down such additional responsibility one year, he or she stands to lose the opportunity for promotion for the next two years.
“Heading a micro-office may be good for a man. But for a woman, it is a risky proposition, as there are issues of personal safety as well as the safety of office cash involved,” K. Govindan, joint general secretary, General Insurance Employees All India Association, told IANS.
He said the unions have taken up the issue with all the four government-owned general insurance companies.
According to him, the centre has directed the four general insurers to set up at least one office in all the villages/towns having a population of over 10,000, so as to achieve wider financial inclusion.
Hence the insurers have decided to open micro offices in all such towns, but found few takers for these, as the pay and the perks were not commensurate with the work involved.
“At the same pay, a person heading the micro office not only has to sell the products and achieve the target, but also issue the policy document, deposit the cash/cheques collected in the bank and keep the office open,” an employee of the United India Insurance Company Ltd told IANS, asking not to be identified.
According to Govindan, if the employee opts to take up a new assignment, then there is no quarrel. The problem arises when the employee is shown the stick – take up marketing or else no promotion for the next two years.
“After putting in over two decades of service in the back/front office, it is difficult for anybody to go out into the market to procure business. As a matter of fact, employees who used to bring in business were discouraged from doing so early,” an employee of the National Insurance told IANS, preferring anonymity.
According to union officials only National Insurance is compelling intra-clerical grade promotees to take up marketing jobs, failing which they are made ineligible to aspire for the next step for two years.
“It is a double whammy. How can you expect a person who worked inside an office for nearly two decades to suddenly go out into the market and start all over again? By doing that, the company actually loses back office talent,” he said.
Industry officials told IANS earlier the companies urged only those clerks who get promoted to the officer cadre to head micro offices. Now, that practice is being implemented at intra-clerical cadre promotion as well.
When contacted by IANS for his reaction on the perception that National Insurance is being anti-women, company chairman-cum-managing director N.S.R. Chandraprasad said he would revert after getting to know the status.
Speaking to IANS over phone from Kolkata, K.P. Brahma, general manager, said: “The company can waive the penalty provision – no promotion for next two years. There are many women who are heading micro and other offices in the company.”
Asked what would be done if the vacancies were mostly for heading micro offices, Brahma said the matter could be explained by the deputy general manager (DGM) of the Chennai region. That official, however, remained unavailable for comments despite several attempts by IANS.