Sunday, October 08, 2006
Sex, drugs, rock & roll: Employees Of BPO Firms Under Scanner

SIN AND THE WORKPLACE: Some firms have sacked staff for sexual or drug abuse

Bangalore: Sex and syringes (read drug abuse) at the workplace have for quite a while been seen as issues in call centres and business process outsourcing (BPO) firms, where employees are mostly young and work at night.

Now, some companies are seen to be cracking down on these activities, as part of a clean-up operation, both to improve the image of the business, and in the fear that young drug users would be easily susceptible to data and information theft.
Several leading companies have sacked employees on grounds of sexual acts or drug abuse in the work premises in recent times. Some like Mphasis have gone to the extent of keeping conference rooms closed at night to prevent misuse of these facilities. Some are tying up with laboratories to do random tests on employees for drug use.
While most companies are reluctant officially to admit that they confront such problems in their own workplaces, one BPO official said on condition of anonymity: "Being part of a permissive community — in terms of age factor, financial independence, freedom and cover of the night — BPO boys and girls are quite susceptible and are easy prey to sex or drug abuses. Dozens of such cases are reported and action taken, but nei ther the employers nor employees are willing to talk about it, since no one wants to get a bad name."
Arun Sethuraj (name changed), who was working in a leading BPO company, was sacked two months ago along with two other colleagues for drug abuse. "Those two friends of mine were into drugs. But the company associated me with them and I too was sacked," he says.
Nobby Nazareth, president of employee verification company Evaluationz India, says that sexual acts at the work premises impact the 'personality' and brand of the company, creating a poor image of the company among clients and resistance in the minds of parents to having their children associate themselves with such companies (a huge issue today when talent is scarce). "As for drug abuse, it directly impacts the productivity of the employee and is also a big threat to BPOs dealing with sensitive data," he says, adding that the uncovering of several BPO frauds in recent months is building a sense of urgency to deal with such issues.
C Mahalingam, HR head of IT and outsourcing company Symphony Services, says these particular problems in call centres/BPOs are not as big as is often made out to be, but admits that companies need to do a lot more in terms of background checks of employees and conduct orientation programmes and have counsellors in place.

posted by Ammie at 11:25 AM | Permalink |