Although crimes against women continue to be rampant, sustained and combined efforts of the government and citizens are ensuring that women who work night shifts can hope for a safer working environment.

Working night shifts? Here’s how you can stay safe

For a large number of workers, night shifts are not uncommon. Certain professions like journalism, call centres, police force, and medical professionals often require employees to work at night. But safety concerns can dissuade women from working after dark. 

In a welcome move, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced some incentives in the recent budget to encourage women to work late. While this will motivate companies to hire more women in all sectors, thereby creating equal employment opportunities for them, it’s also important that a safe and secure working environment is put in place.

The safety of women workers – whether they are employed in day or night shifts – is the responsibility of the employer and of the government. The question is: what measures are being taken to ensure that safety?

The Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Act (2020) allows women employees to work at night – that is, between 7 pm and 6 am, subject to conditions relating to safety, holidays, working hours, and their consent.

According to the new rules, prior consent of female employees to work after 7 pm is required. This is a necessary step towards empowering them. Workplaces where women are employed at night, including factories and construction sites, are mandated to provide them with transport facilities along with a crèche on the work premises. 

Related: 7 Things to look out for at all times when you go out with your friends
To ensure safe pick up and drop, companies must ensure the following:

  • Cab details are sent to the employee prior to their pickup time
  • Company logo sticker is prominently displayed on the front windscreen
  • Cab driver carries an ID card given by the company/transportation provider

Either a male associate or a security guard should be present in the cab while dropping off a female employee. Additionally, companies must ensure that the work premises are well-lit. They must provide a canteen and adequate sanitation facilities for women close to their workstation. For working overtime, an employee should be given double the wages that she is otherwise paid.
If the respective state governments consider that the employment of women poses a danger to their health and safety due to the nature of operations of the establishment, they can prohibit the employment of women in such places. 

Where there is fear of assault at the workplace, there is a greater fear of assault during the commute. So, while commuting at night, employees must take the following precautions.

Related: 15 Safety tips for women moving to a new city

1. Make use of safety apps
Apps like bSafe, WomenSafety, Smart24x7, Raksha, and many more help you remain safe by letting your close contacts track your live location. These apps can send a panic alert in case of an emergency, record conversations, take photographs, and alert the police as well.

2. Be aware of your surroundings
If you are commuting alone by cab or auto, take photos of the driver and the number plate and send them to a close contact. Make sure you do not sleep in a cab or auto; remain fully alert at all times. Needless to say, take only well-lit streets and avoid deserted routes as far as possible. This is especially important if you need to walk home.

3. Learn self-defence techniques
Equip yourself with safety tools such as a pepper spray. This can come in handy if you are threatened . Also take self-defence classes where you are taught how to use basic objects like your keys, heels, and handbag against an assaulter.

Related: 5 Easy self-defence moves every woman must know. 

4. Keep emergency numbers handy 
Make sure your phone battery doesn’t die on you when you are on the road. Besides having numbers of close friends, family members, and colleagues on speed dial, save emergency numbers such as police control room (100), ambulance (101), and national commission for women (1090/1091) so that you can seek urgent assistance.

Women make up a significant chunk of the workforce. Giving them equal employment opportunities without compromising on their safety will give a huge impetus to the economic growth of the country. These are the 6 best places for women to live and work.