Companies get baby scare

Proposed law enhancing maternity leave to 26 weeks will hit productivity, firms say.

Hyderabad: The proposal of enhancing maternity leave from 12 to 26 weeks in the private sector by the Ministry of Women and Child Welfare has the companies worried.

As per the proposals of the Bill, all establishments, including those in private sector, MNCs and others, will have to provide maternity leave for 26 weeks to their women employees. The Bill will be introduced in Parliament in the Monsoon Session, which started Monday.

According to the Gender Diversity Benchmark, about 24 per cent of working women in the country are at junior or mid-level positions, and they leave their respective professions in seven to 12 years because of maternity issues.

The industrial sector is now worried about the new Bill because it would have an impact on production if a skilled woman employee goes on leave for six-and-a-half months against the existing three months’ maternity leave.

Mr Raj Kumar, a medium-scale industry organiser at Balanagar said that managements of industries spent more on employees while training. “We bear financial burdens during the training period of employees. We provide stipends during this period. It is a hard process to train an employee to meet the requirements of a company. Small and medium units will have limited staff and they suffer if one or two staff goes on leave for a long time,” he said.

Advocate U. Manasa expressed concern that women might lose opportunities in private sector units due to the decision. “The decision enhancing the maternity leave period is acceptable. But private firms may not give jobs to women. Women need to spend time with their babies in the initial stage. The present leave of 12 weeks is not sufficient, and due to less leaves, women are depending on servants or childcare centers as they do not have elders in nuclear families,” she said.

As per the recommendations made by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), maternity leave should at least be of 14 weeks or more, though it encourages member states to increase it to at least 18 weeks. At present India has 12 weeks of maternity leave in the private sector and six months in government sector.

With the proposal of the government to enhance leaves in the private sector, India will join the league of 42 countries where maternity leave exceeds 18 weeks. However, it falls behind several East European and Central Asian countries, which have the most generous national legislations for paid maternity leave.

India provides two weeks of paternity leaves for men. Currently the US maternity leave policy is directed by the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA), which includes a provision mandating 12 weeks of unpaid leave annually for mothers of newborns or newly-adopted children.

In Britain, statutory maternity leave is up to 52 weeks. The first 26 weeks is known as “Ordinary Maternity Leave” and the last 26 weeks as “Additional Maternity Leave”.

France provides 16 weeks of leave with 70 per cent pay. It also provides two weeks of paternity leave with 100 per cent salary. In Germany, employers have to pay 100 per cent salary during 14 weeks of maternity leave.

Women in the field
16 lakh employees are working in IT and ITeS sectors in Hyderabad
40% In IT sector are women
65% In ITeS sector are women
90% In IT sector, about 90 per cent of front-end professionals are women

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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