By Annie Banerji
NEW DELHI, Dec 10 (Openly) - Two Indian firms, the Godrej Group and Hindustan Unilever, were named top employers for LGBT+ people on Thursday, in the country's first workplace equality index, launched two years after it decriminalised gay sex.
The other 19 gold award winners - with LGBT+ inclusive policies such as gender neutral bathrooms and health insurance for same-sex partners - were all international firms, including tech giant Microsoft and services company Accenture.
Hindustan Unilever is the Indian subsidiary of the British consumer giant.
"We are all in early stages of the inclusion journey in India," said Parmesh Shahani, head of Godrej India Culture Lab, which hosts events to encourage diverse thinking, and is part of the conglomerate, which includes chemicals and property firms.
"I am happy that so many companies are coming together to go on this journey together, learn from each other and share best practices with each other, so that we may all push each other to do more," he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
In the index of 52 award-winning companies, 67% were international, 17% were Indian and the remainder chose to remain anonymous.
India's Tata Steel was one of the four Indian silver award winners, winning praise for its decision to rename "paternity leave" as "newborn parent leave", which it offers to same-sex, trans and single male parents.
The index - by British LGBT+ advocacy group Stonewall, India's LGBT+ rights Keshav Suri Foundation and LGBT+ inclusion consultancy Pride Circle - came after the country's top court scrapped a colonial-era ban on gay sex in 2018.
The verdict not only allowed a nascent gay culture to come into the open, but also saw large Indian companies rush to offer LGBT+ benefits and workplace support such as leave for sex reassignment surgeries and sensitising employees.
Research suggests firms that promote LGBT+ equality in the workplace tend to also have improved employee recruitment and retention, better consumer perceptions and higher profitability and productivity.
Dilip Chenoy, secretary general of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, urged more domestic companies to participate in the index next year, saying it would help "move the needle towards diversity and inclusion".
"Such inclusion is not necessarily from a humanitarian sense, but it also makes immense business sense," said Chenoy.
"We need to make acceptable work environments where all employees feel respected, valued and involved irrespective of who they are."
(Reporting by Annie Banerji @anniebanerji, Editing by Katy Migiro; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)
Openly is an initiative of the Thomson Reuters Foundation dedicated to impartial coverage of LGBT+ issues from around the world.
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