The new Maternity Bill – a boon or a bane?

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The title seems like a debate competition topic that we used to have in school, and rightly so, the new Maternity bill has raised many a debates. My initial reaction when the bill came out was that of celebration because I had gone through the 12 weeks leave after my son was born and I know how little that is for a nursing mother recovering from c-section. However as the news sunk in the repercussions of this new bill also started hitting. Not only did the twitterverse blow up on the news, both positive and negative, but as did so many of my whatsapp groups.

This bill does come as a respite to the already over worked and over stretched women work force. In most working women homes, women are not only financial contributors but are also the majority domestic workload bearers. Adding to it the responsibility of motherhood burdens them further. More paid leave from work would mean an easier transition from birthing a baby to returning to work place.

Although practically this is a boon but many companies and employers would not necessarily look at it as that. I am completely discounting the comments and opinions of people that are crying hoarse that this is against the fight of equality for women. Childbirth related leave for women has nothing to do with gender equality, since men would never experience the physical and emotional hubbub a woman goes through pre and post partum. Moving on. Employers typically look at mothers in a different light since they are considered to be more inclined towards home and identified as primary childcare provider. Hence creating a belief of their reduced commitment towards work.

A discussion with a Senior HR professional in the Healthcare sector lead shed light on some of the factors that would come to play due to this bill. She is of the opinion that this bill will encourage more women to continue work post maternity, which is one of the main advantages of the bill.  Women who have to take a break fro employment due to lack of appropriate maternity leave wouldn’t have to do so now. Since mid-level women executives would return to work after having a baby it would eventually increase the diversity ratio in corporate ultimately boosting female participation at the leadership level, which at this point stands at approximately 4%.

Despite the many advantages of the bill the pitfalls one would require to look out for are:

  1. Bias during performance appraisal and promotions due to the 6 months leave and the added perception that now the baby’s priorities will interfere in work deliverables
  2. There is possibility of misuse of the policy by women or the impression of such a misuse thereof
  3. Biases during hiring women of childbearing age especially newly married
  4. Expectation from women that their role won’t change during the gap period. Organizations need to manage work and often work gets redistributed or new hiring happens to replace critical positions. When the person rejoins back she may not be in the exact same role

Sadly in India good professionals in temp roles are non-existent but one-way larger organizations can manage this by opening up the position as extended development projects for 6 months with their other branches/ country offices. But this would be a challenge for the smaller organizations.

It would also be expected that women in critical roles may not take the full maternity leave and return as early as it is possible for them thereby not causing hindrance to the organization and the deliverables.

I am personally delighted by the new Maternity Bill and only believe that this gives more benefit to women than create more roadblocks. Also, the consideration of leaves for adoptive and surrogate mothers is a step in the future.

 

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