The Dilemma – Dying In Harness

When the tragedy strikes, organisations respond in very different ways, none of which could be faulted on any moral grounds, but it surely generates heated debates within the organisation itself.
Read this excerpt from The Week [Oct 3, 2010], Tatas have taken the most benevolent option. But there are other options available too.
[Quote] When terror struck the landmark Taj Mahal Palace, far away, her beautiful world shattered.

On the fateful day, Mohammad left home at 7 p.m., his usual time. He did not return the next day, but the news of his death in a blast inside the taxi he drove did. November 26 claimed the lives of many others, who left behind grieving wives, daughters and sons, parents and friends. The 26/11 terror attack not only shook Mumbai but the entire country and changed the course of history.

Momima is illiterate. Mohammad, who was the sole breadwinner in the family, had no savings. Without income, Momima struggled to put food on the table and pay the monthly rent of  Rs. 1,600 for her kholi (home). Fate had thrust another responsibility on her. Momima’s fourth son, Harhaan, was born a few months after Mohammad’s death. She knew the Rs.5 lakh compensation given by the government would run out soon.

The Taj Public Service Welfare Trust, set up days after the 26/11 attacks, came to her rescue. The trust has been giving her Rs.10,000 a month for the last seven months. “I have no idea what the future has in store for me. But for this support from the trust, I would have killed myself,” Momima tells THE WEEK.

In addition to providing the money, the trust has also taken up the responsibility of funding her children’s education, for which she is grateful. “The fee is directly deposited in the school,” she says. “I was offered a job by the trust but I could not go as there was nobody to look after my children.” [Unquote]

The decision of Tatas to help the affected persons is exceptional for two reasons: Firstly, They have surpassed expectations of a common man [not an easy task] from an industrial house. Secondly, They have done it without any publicity or without any intention to gain mileage out of it; they have allowed a common man to ‘discover’ it.
In the case of Mohammad, he was not an employee of Taj. But what if he were?
What happens when a person dies in harness? Tatas are known to offer job to a deceased employee’s wife in such a situation. No doubt it is a magnanimous offer. It helps the deceased employee’s family. But there is a flip side. Very often the lady is not ready for the job, so she has to undergo some training. She is often considered a ‘dead wood’ by many managers because of her inability to perform at a level equal or higher than others. This is not true in all cases, but it happens in many such instances. The lady often finds the organisational life humiliating.
There are many HR Managers who do not subscribe to this solution. They say that one must recruit exclusively on merit. So they recommend that enough fund should be invested so that the family [at least] earns as much as the last drawn salary of the deceased employee. This way one offers financial security and avoids employing the unemployable. This approach too has its negatives.
What would be your solution in a case when an employee dies in harness?