Twenty six weeks of maternity leave; Boon or Bane?
Recently I read two news articles, one was on formal announcement of completion of six month’s maternity leave, what and how things have changed. The other by Amit Varma titled “I am Feminist you should be too”.
While on the face of it, it looks that there is no connection, I think that they are very much connected.
To quote from Amit verma’s article, One reason for India being such a poor country is that we treat half of our greatest resource as inferior to the other half. This has huge cost, which people have recently begun to quantify. Only 26 % of women are in the workforce; next only to Saudi Arabia in G 20 countries. A story in latest issue of economists revels that if % of women and men was the same in labour workforce there would 235 million more women in Indian workforce. 2015 McKinsey study mentions tahat our GDP would go up by 60 % if female participation in the workforce matched that of men.
The quote from the news article about maternity leave says that,A little more than a year since a landmark bill that doubled the time off given to new mothers, start-ups and small businesses appear to be reluctant to hire women.
A poll conducted by social media platform LocalCircles, which asked businesses how their company’s hiring has been on gender basis in the last one year, showed that 57% either hired only or mostly male employees. The poll received 2,987 votes from startups and small and medium enterprises (SMEs) across India. Responding to the poll 11% said they hired male employees only, while 46% said they hired mostly male and a few female employees. About 43% said they hired both male and females in equal proportion.
In my view the six months maternity leave law has reduced chances of women’s employability,” said Krishna Kumar, founder and CEO of education startup Simplilearn. “Smaller and even mid-sized companies are wary about appointing even well deserving women who really need a job simply because such firms do not have the resources or bandwidth to have a member away for six months,” he added.
In March last year, the Parliament approved a bill granting women working in the organised sector paid maternity leave of 26 weeks, up from 12 weeks. The law applies to all establishments employing 10 or more people. India now has the third highest maternity leave, after Canada that grants 50 weeks and Norway that grants 44 weeks as paid maternity leave.
For most small companies and startups it is practically impossible to afford. Even mid-sized companies would be shying away. How will a small sized startup with 10 employees that is not even sure of its own survival afford it,” he said. Over the last year several startups and SMEs have been reportedly reluctant to hire newly married women.
I sincerely feel that instead of 26 weeks of paid maternity leave, we should have adopted of supporting women to come back to work after 12 weeks, with more incentives, may be like childcare allowance/ availability of professional crèches, flexible work hours etc. This will ensure women come back early and join the workforce , with new added competencies due to motherhood. Perhaps win win for all , Country, Women and business houses.