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Maternity Benefit act – A Sinking boat or a Powerhouse

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Maternity Benefit act – A Bless or a Bleed

A Brief case study:

Prerna has been working in a multinational company for past 7 years. She joined the company through campus placement as a management trainee in finance department. She had seen different phases of her professional and personal growth in 7 years time span spent within the company. Professionally, she has grown from management trainee to the senior manager position. Similarly on personal front from being a spinster, she is married woman now for past 5 years.  Things have been a cakewalk for her in the organisation so far. 
 
However, things changed for her when she decided to extend her family. After knowing about her pregnancy things started becoming bitter for her. In performance appraisal she did not get good ranking despite contributing best to her work. She has been sidelined from new or existing projects as her absence for coming 6 months from work will be considered as major absence and there is no surety that she would be back to work after maternity leave. With these doubts in mind her superior are not involving her more into crucial work and abandoning her from the responsibilities which she could easily carry on. She  felt and observed every step treatment towards her because of her pregnancy She decided to stay in the present organisation till she rejoin back from  maternity break, and decided to take a change in her job afterwards.
 
This short case study left us with questions popping up in our mind .
 
Would Prerna decision to move on to another firm will give her stability and progress in the career?
 
Is this situation just happening with Prerna in the existing firm or is it the same story which woman labour force faces once they decide to have family and  they proceed on Maternity leave.
 
This  question remains  unanswered till the time an analysis is done to determine whether this new amendment in maternity leave an actual benefit to the women labour force?
 
Is this benefit actually empowering women?
Let’s have a look at certain figures which gives us more clarity to ascertain something .
 
According to a survey conducted by TEAMLEASE , with the amendments in maternity leave benefit following has been observed
   
maternity act - hrhelpboard

 

Woman quitting job estimate  

Woman quitting job estimate

Job Loss
 
1-1.2 Crores is the potential job loss estimated  across all sectors.
1.6 – 2.6% job loss across 10 sectors.
 
A comparative analysis of maternity benefit act 2017 with the previous act can be explained as:
 
 

Maternity benefit act 2017

 Previous  act

 

  1. Maternity leave for 26 weeks

 

  1. Any organisation with 50 or more employees need to have a crèche facility

 

  1. 4  visits allowed for a women employee to visit the crèche.

 

  1. Women can work from home after she has availed maternity leave upon mutual consent

 

  1. A female employee can’t be asked to resign during maternity leave.

 

Previous lave duration was for 12 Weeks.

 

 

No such provision

 

 

No such provision

 

 

No  such  provision

 

 

 

No such provision

 

The above differences showcase the Maternity leave conditions  of the maternity benefit act 2017. This is certainly true that we have stood exemplary in the world after making it mandatory to have maternity leave for 26 weeks even in private organisations.  Now few more questions arises?

 

  • Would this new law helpful for women to join the workplace?
  • Has the situation really improved?
  • Is the workplace a better place for new and existing mother’s with applicability of Standard maternity leave policy?


Lets have a look at the following challenges which are faced  by women after  introduction of new maternity benefit act 2017.

1. Job loss in small and medium enterprises: Many larger companies have shown a welcome gesture to this law but fear prevails for small and medium size  enterprises, reason being that 6 months absence from work  results in loss of productivity.Such small companies have 1 or 2 position for a particular skill, employer find it  easy to have a replacement instead keeping it vacant for 6 months.

2. Following  Maternity Leave guidelines as per the maternity leave policy  is a costly affair for medium and small enterprises as the cost of having a crèche facility in case of  50 +  employees  etc . is an additional cost which will be borne by employer in india, therefore for them it proves out to be costly affair.

3. Defeat the purpose of gender diversit : Companies prefer hiring male candidate in a certain age group as employers have their own doubts to hire female force which might go on  pregnancy leave   in the near future. So employer prefers hiring male candidates. This further deepens the rift in widening the gender diversity.

4. Career Break: It is uncertain most of the time that woman work force would return back to work  after the maternity leave. Employers put a big  question mark on hiring of female counterparts since with leaving the organisation after availing maternity leave, the initial investment  of the company in terms of training etc. goes waste.

Measures to be taken to promote the new maternity benefit act:

1. Government should bear some costs towards the Maternity allowance  cost and it should not be the sole responsibility of the employer.

2. Paternity leave mandates must also be followed like maternity leave so that the gap between hiring a male candidate over the female candidate can be bridged.
3. Promotion of career progression for women who rejoin after the maternity break.

4. Allowing  companies to offset any additional cost burden against their company social responsibility  spending that is now required by the law.
5. Maternity leave rights  are  still not applicable to the unorganised sector  for example agriculturist, contractual labour, construction workers etc. It must be noted that vast majority of woman workforce are employed in unorganised sector.

6. Employing the Maternity leave entitlements will  not  be difficult with larger companies but smaller companies might not be able to bear the extended cost and can stop hiring more women employees.

Privilege or non cash benefits / Health benefits of Maternity Leave rules

1. One of the important aspect for providing 26 weeks maternity leave is to improve upon assistance of breastfeeding by working mothers.Thus, making it one of the investments in global health.
 
2. It give self respect to motherhood and is crucial in protecting the health of both mother and child.
 
3. It gives a sense of security  to working mothers that they need not  worry about loss of her job  while taking care of the infant.
 
4. No resignation or dismissal while she is on maternity leave.
 
Conclusion: As a company, they should feel the pride in promoting gender  equality by embracing the new law. This new maternity leave policy  would be seen as a positive move and should be accepted as a positive change.  We must hope  to see young mothers  rejoining the work after birth of child and contributing towards  the national talent pool.
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