Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) recently grabbed attention on social media due to a rise in the attrition rate among its women employees. This development coincides with the company’s decision to focus on work from office for its employees. The company aims to have a structured hybrid model by 2025.

This policy change has sparked widespread debate surrounding TCS, raising questions about its impact on the female workforce.

TCS chief human resources officer Milind Lakkad said in the company’s annual report that historically, women’s attrition rate has been lower than the average attrition in the IT company, and that the latest trend (women quitting the workforce) is unusual for the firm.

“There might be other reasons but intuitively, I would think working from home during the pandemic reset the domestic arrangements for some women, keeping them from returning to office even after everything normalised,” said Lakkad in the report. The company’s attrition rate was 20.1 per cent as per its latest annual report. (An attrition rate of 20 per cent would mean that at any given point, one-fifth of the company is on the way out and another one-fifth has just come in.) In January this year, TCS decided to end its permanent work from home policy.

Women account for 35.7 per cent of TCS’s employee base. TCS was also ranked as the top employer of women among the 500 most valuable corporations in a Hurun survey from December 2022. At the time, the Mumbai-based company had 210,000 women on its rolls.

Also read: Cognizant arrests attrition for fourth straight quarter

“High attrition of specific demographic cohorts like gender, age, experience, location, qualification etc. are typical red flags for an employer,” Prasadh M S, Head, Workforce Research, Xpheno, a Specialist Staffing company said. “Rising attrition among women employees impacts employer branding and the ability to attract future talent.”

He added that such a reduction in representation would ruin years of diversity and inclusion efforts and costs. Investors may also react sharply to such reversals and drop in trajectories.

“When we speak of solving for workplace discrimination or creating equal opportunities for women at work,” said Charu Malhotra, Co-founder and Managing Director, Primus Partners, “We need to also be sensitive that workplaces need to create the right conditions for professional women to match their strides with male colleagues and move up the career ladder.”

Netizens react

“Why are women getting shamed for quitting TCS? Maybe they actually don’t want to?” asked Ashokha Varshini, Associate Editor, Thanthi TV, on Twitter. Consider the domestic environment we have provided for them during the pandemic, one that prevents them from returning to the usual employment they were doing three years earlier, she added.

Neha Nagar, Ex wealth manager, tweeted: “This will make it difficult for women to balance their work and family responsibilities.”

So, is this issue related to women’s rights? Not everyone thinks so.

“From the company’s point of view, where they could have possible reasons such as employees finding million reasons to not log in at time (broadband not working, power cut being given as reasons) to end work from home mode,” wrote Krithika Sivaswamy, an Entrepreneur from Chennai.

TCS has said that work from office is important for reasons such as team building, mentorship and collaboration. “New employees get acculturated through physical interactions with senior colleagues and leaders, by observing and following their behaviouurs and ways of thinking,” said Lakkad in the IT giant’s annual report.

With the increasing demand for work from home, companies such as Access Healthcare are allowing high-performing employees to work from home permanently. “The Home Pod model (work from home model) is opted for by our women employees due to their needs to balance work and home life,” said Vardhman Jain, Founder, and Vice Chairman, Access Healthcare. To assess the performance of the employees, the company has deployed an automated performance management platform at the back end to measure.