Changing times: The maternity matters
All the expecting mothers out there have a reason to celebrate since the Central Government has proposed to extend the paid maternity leave from twelve to 24 weeks. It would solve two problems. First, it would take care of the child malnutrition by ensuring breastfeeding during the initial months of child birth. Since the women from weaker economic sections get back to work for the sake of finances with the consequence of poor childcare. Second, it would go a long way in reducing the gender gap in the work force.
The primary reason for women leaving the job is the insufficient support at work during childbirth. Some corporates back the new moms with the extended maternity leave beyond the stipulated 12 weeks and flexible working hours on joining back. For example, Accenture offers 22 weeks paid maternity leave, Hindustan Unilever 180 days, Flipkart has 24 weeks paid off with four months of flexi work hours, and Vodafone has 16 weeks off with six hours per day for six months. The highest scorer, however, is Haryana government allowing two years of leave that can be availed till the child is 18.
The companies are not going ahead just for the cause of women empowerment. Supporting a new mom makes business sense too. Retaining the already trained and tuned workforce saves the expenditure on drilling the new parallel recruits. The global analysis by KPMG quantifies the savings to the tune of $19 billion annually for Vodafone through the extended 16 weeks leave. Gender diversity also leads to better performance of the businesses. A study by Credit Suisse Research Institute (2012) found that the stocks of companies with the feminine representation performed better. Gender diversity studies by McKinsey (2015) further strengthen the case since the gender diverse organisations garnered 15 per cent better financial returns.
However, merely increasing the duration of the maternity leave does not suffice. A study by Catalyst identifies the lack of family support programmes and the integration of the women back into work as the leading cause of their staying off the work. The Bell-Curve appraisal lowers the pay cheques of new moms joining after a maternity leave as compared to their peers. Some companies like Dr Reddy’s Lab, Mondelez India Foods and Cummins Group do take care of the problem. Nonetheless, the Government and the employers have a long way to go to harness the dormant powerhouses and channel the senile energy for GDP growth and building a bright nation.