A Hope in the Downfall of Maternity Benefit Amendment Act 2017

By Vasundhara Dudeja in Trending 30/08/2018

The Maternity Benefit Amendment Act 2017 was implemented a year ago in lieu of retaining a higher number of women across various industries post maternity leaves. This progressive approach might have backfired in actually making India progress, but there is still hope.

 

The Maternity Benefit Amendment Act 2017 made four major amendments: increasing the paid maternity leave fully borne by the employers from 12 to 26 weeks, benefits of 12 weeks for adoptive and commissioning mothers, work from home opportunities for women post 26 weeks if needed and mandatory crèche facilities.

 

The Amended Act put in place these provisions to facilitate the WHO standard which says that children must be exclusively breastfed by the mother for the first 24 weeks

 

Although the mandatory crèche facilities were to be borne by establishment employing 50 or more employees, the other provisions were available to every woman who has been a part of any organisation for more than 80 days with a minimum employee strength of 10.

 

This landmark reform changed India’s stance from backwards to progressive in its potential to incorporate more women in the workforce. However, according to a survey by TeamLease report shared exclusively with TOI, a net job loss of 11-18 lakh women was estimated for the fiscal year (FY) 2018-19.

 

Gender Gap Index 2017 India

In a country, which ranks 108th on 144 countries in the Gender Gap Index 2017, meaning that on an average, a woman in India gets paid only 60% of what her male counterpart gets for similar work, 66% of women’s work in India is unpaid, compared to 12% of men’s and only 13% of senior officials, managers and legislators are women. The above number concurs a huge loss to the country.

 

Looking at this from an employer’s perspective, these numbers, however demeaning, make sense. The cost of bearing an employee for six months without the outcome of any work,  the cost of providing for crèche facilities and the relative inefficiency of work from home facilities can make an employee easily turn towards the other easier alternative: men.

 

By not giving any provision or increased benefits to new fathers, this law delineates patriarchy by making women the sole person responsible for childcare. Further, this law is only for the women in organised sectors, ignoring a majority of women of the country in the unorganised sector without the right to have a financially protected childbirth and childcare process.

 

SO WHY SHOULD WOMEN BY HIRED?

 

In a recent webcast organised by People Matters with Priya Krishnan, Founder & CEO, Founding Years Learning Solutions Pvt Ltd and Roshika Singh, Gender Secretariat, IFC, they highlighted the major effects of this Act in a survey on the business impact of Maternity Benefit Amendment Act conducted by International Financial Corporation and AVTAR Groups.

 

As per a report by International Financial Corporation, 90 per cent of the respondents said that the amendments have positively impacted retention. However, according to AVTAR Group’s Viewport 2018 report, for 95 per cent of the managers, the major concern is how to build an alternate resource equivalent in talent to fill in for the working mother going on leave.

 

According to Roshika Singh, who has been an active member in the policy-making for the welfare of women rights with the Labour Ministry of India “The cost of losing a woman, who is an established member, for maternity benefits is much higher than the maternity benefit cost itself and employers should keep that in mind before taking any abrupt steps.”

 

The business impact was mainly recorded in three aspects: retention, workplace culture and talent acquisition with the highest negative impact on talent acquisition.

 

Business Impact of the Maternity Benefit ActBusiness Impact of Maternity Act. Source: IFC.

 

Throwing light on the dubious crèche provision directive, they exemplified how the number of crèche provision has increased after the compliance of this act.

 

Current Type of Creche in Organisations
Current Type of Creche In Organisations. Source: IFC

 

According to Roshika, “Parents rely on three things when looking for crèche facilities for their children: affordability, quality and convenience in terms of distance. Most of the parents are willing to bear partial costs in crèche provisions which not only encourages employers but also results in high employee retention”

 

On the role played by the government in eliminating the hesitation of hiring women in talent acquisition, she explained A Maternity Benefit Fund is already in the draft which allows employers who are smaller in size to tap into the funds and provide for maternity care of women employees.

 

“The bar is already set high for childbearing-aged women and it is essential that the government recognizes the urgent need to take it away and work towards similar initiatives”

 

 

Vasundhara is an in-house content creator. Other than past experiences of writing including writing as an Intern for The Hindu and various other platforms, she is also an engineer, a dancer, and a bibliophile.

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