Can India’s new Maternity Benefit Bill get more women to return to work? I am not sure

Before you call me a pessimist and an ungrateful woman, let me state that I am proud India has passed this Bill. It is a positive move supporting the value that working women bring to our society. Incidentally, I am also a beneficiary of such a policy that my company implemented for expecting mothers from April 1, this year – much before this Bill was passed. Several people have critiqued this Bill, including my friend Swagata Raha, by pointing out discrepancies in how it views biological children differently from adopted ones; and how it excludes women working in the unorganized sector.

While I am sure the government had its own rationale for passing the Bill, the crux of the matter is that the onus of ensuring women getting back to work still remains with the organizations they work for. Scrutinizing and monitoring progress in this regard is an area the Bill hasn’t touched upon at all. And that is why I remain concerned about the success of this Bill in practice. My reasons are listed below.

  1. Company versus Family tussle
  2. Parenthood, as seen by companies, tends to exclude fathers
  3. No role models to follow
  4. Lack of family / social structure in urban cities
  5. Lack of ‘good’ extended care facilities

The government, by passing this Bill, appears to have absolved itself of the responsibility to ensure the right outcomes. There is no clause in the Bill that says organizations need to report their rate of success pertaining to this policy, considering this is expected to positively impact women’s health, education and career related metrics nationally. Under the current circumstances, I feel organizations may grudgingly pay salaries for 6 months and be quick to blame mothers for their individual inability to continue working, should they quit. Unless changes are made in the way business is run to accommodate the lifestyles of parents (fathers included), such policies cannot be effective and help convince women to return to work.

For the detailed post please click here . The full article was also published on the Daily O and the News Minute

Dr. Vikram Venkateswaran

Management Thinker, Marketer, Healthcare Professional Communicator and Ideation exponent

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