Everyone welcomed the Amendments to the new Maternity Act with open arms. While the majority of the citizens rejoiced that the government has finally taken a step to protect the health and interest of the newborn child and the mother, few have raised doubts on the execution of the Act.
The Amendment states that the maternity leave will now be 26 weeks – almost about five months. Earlier, women used to get just 12 weeks off. During the maternity leave, the woman employee receives her full pay and other benefits, which is a cost to the company. The said Act has also suggested that such employees should also be given an option of working from home, if feasible. If possible, a creche facility is also to be made available near the office, and the employee should be permitted to have four visits a day to the creche.
To be frank, this Amendment is a need of the time, but in a metropolitan city like Bombay, this looks like a dream or a disaster. In the main Indian cities, where the quality workforce is not an issue but time and productivity are, many companies would most probably ask the pregnant employees to resign and take a maternity break for a couple of years and then resume work, thus reducing the cost of one employee.
In cities like Mumbai, Bengaluru, Delhi, etc., daily commuting is a nightmare. In such circumstances, the idea of travelling with a child who’s just a few months old is absolutely insane. The idea of having a creche near the workplace is good, but considering the gruelling travel, it is very challenging and impractical. The creche is also an extra expense for the company as not many employees would have small children or need the creche.
The best aspect of this Act is that it encourages work from home option. But unfortunately, only women from the higher hierarchy will be able to avail the benefit. Women employees at the bottom of the pyramid are most likely to be asked to resign and rejoin after a couple of years.
I think one more Amendment should have been made – a mandatory paternity leave to the fathers. The husband’s support is the most crucial for women giving birth to her child. In Sweden, people get 450 days of maternity and paternity leave, and in some cases, men can also take a leave of up to one year. More and more families are becoming nuclear in India. It is crucial to sensitise men and make them a part of the growing years of a child.
The new amendments won’t be successful in Patriarchal India till the men are sensitised about helping their wives during and after childbirth. Because of the impracticability of the amendments, the corporates are more likely to look for an easy way out i.e. to ask a pregnant woman to resign.
If we want our nation to develop and progress, we must strengthen its roots first.