Maternity Bill : Will it help? Or hurt?

So government has passed the maternity bill and the short summary is:

  • Maternity leave available to the working women  for the first two be increased from 12 weeks to 26 weeks.
  • Every establishment with more than 50 employees to provide for crèche facilities for working mothers and such mothers will be permitted to make four visits during working hours to look after and feed the child in the crèche.

Definitely a great move – but here are a few questions / perspectives:
Will this bill force private companies to rethink hiring ‘married woman’? For any company, paid leave of 26 weeks (more than 6 months) is A LOT.
Yes, most of the MNCs have such options – but then, they are hedging between $$ and Rupee salary and they can surely afford it.

HappyWomansDay: The Google Doodle.
HappyWomansDay: The Google Doodle.

For a ‘normal’ company (SMEs/startups), this could be tough. Really tough.
“Every establishment with more than 50 employees to provide for crèche facilities” – i.e. invest in infrastructure or partner with a company which provides creche facilities.
In essence, the cost to company will increase 2-3X per pregnant woman employee (with no guarantee that the person will come back).

Will this impact hiring in private sector?

My gut feel says YES.
Leaving MNCs and IT services companies, most of the firms are struggling for talented resources and are trying to maintain the burn – they will be extremely wary of hiring newly married woman as cost to company will increase drastically.
The last question you want in an interview (and is bound to happen) is

Are you pregnant? Do you have any such plans?”

For sure, the newly married woman is going to face tough questions, but the good news is that the ones who took a break from the corporate career will find it easy to come back to work.

What government should really do

In Nordic countries, maternity leave is partly paid by the company and partly by the government.
Isn’t that the right thing to do? Ideally, private companies would like to link such benefits to one’s performance too.
In fact, firing a poor performer (woman) employee will get tougher for many – so the companies may just resort to not hiring newly married ones, just to be on the safer side.

The Bill misses out on the most important audience

The unorganized sector – i.e. right from your maid to construction workers to daily wage earners.

Let’s look at data.
In India, 29.7 million woman get pregnant every year (source).
And guess how many of these are in organized sector? Only 1.8 million !
The pregnant woman in unorganized sector need the most help – and they are out of this bill, which is brutally sad.
My question to ladies out there:

Will you give 6 months of paid maternity leave to your pregnant maid?

Last:  This is no gender equality
What about paternity leave? Why are we expecting the woman to be the only caretaker? If we want the woman to come back to the job, husband should play an equal role (from the very beginning).
Shouldn’t such decisions be left with companies and not be forced by the government? The government should have a certain framework and importantly, skin in the game (fund the paid leave partly).
What’s your take?
[Note : These are perspectives and questions – and NOT an opinion. Atleast government has moved a step forward and we applaud it.]

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