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Maternity Bill – What it means for Indian corporates?

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pregnant lady With the Maternity Bill being passed, India is placed inthe league of progressive nations with respect to maternity benefits.

For companies it means considerable investment and implementation nuances. Please find below what the Maternity Bill means for Indian corporates ? Happy to get on a call and discuss this with you in details.

The Indian Government has delivered on the #BeBoldForChange mantra this International Women’s Day by passing the Maternity Bill. The clauses in the Bill are ground breaking which will drive positive change for women at work.

Please find below the key provisions of the Maternity bill and what it means for the companies:

The Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Bill, 2016, seeks to provide maternity leave of 26 weeks from the present 12 weeks for the working women.

The bill also provides for leave up to 12 weeks for a woman who adopts a child below the age of three months, and for commissioning mothers. The new bill will apply to all establishments employing 10 or more people and the entitlement will be for only up to first two children. The Maternity Benefit Act, 1961, protects the employment of women during the time of her maternity and entitles her full paid absence from work, to take care for her child.

What does this mean for companies?

Recent ProEves Gender Balance India Survey 2016, reveals that 54% of companies already provide for six months and more of maternity leave. This is in line with the new bill. Of the remaining, 23% have extended it beyond three months. It is this 23% which have to now move to increasing the leave period to 26 weeks.

Funding of this benefit – What is surprising is that amongst countries that have progressive maternity leave benefits, India is the only country where the sole burden of funding of this benefit is on the Employer. ‘There is no Government subsidy or contribution from public funds towards this benefit. Hence to ensure a higher return on this investment, companies need to focus on post maternity support.

Role on return – While employment is protected during maternity, there needs to be clarity on which role she will return to. Will it be the same role, a new role, a project based role or on bench. Such ambiguities need to be minimised for a returning mother

The bill has made creche facility mandatory in respect of establishments with 50 or more employees.

What does this mean for companies?

Based on ProEves survey, 63% of working women left their careers citing childcare as the main reason but only 34% companies provided childcare support (11% in house crèche, 6% near site tie-up and 17% provided reimbursement support). Of the remaining, 20% companies had a plan in progress and 46% companies had a wait and watch approach.

With the implementation of the Maternity Bill, companies will need to make provisions for this benefit for working parents. While the clause is still unclear on the nature of arrangement and quality standards of the crèche, companies need to evaluate various models ranging from high liability onsite daycare facility to low liability near site/ multi site tie up structure. There is no one size fits all approach in this case. Companies will need to decide their daycare strategy and roll out plan, whether it would be for HQ alone or with the given employee headcount definition some sales offices will also be covered.

Employers will have to allow women staff to go to the crèche (or take nursing break) four times, which will also include her rest period.

What does this mean for companies?

All managers will have to be aware of this provision, so that there are no insensitive remarks around this break. Also in case of a daycare tieup which is not in the office facility, the company will need to check the breastfeeding provisions provided in the office.

The bill also facilitates ‘work from home’ for nursing mothers once the leave period ends.

What does this mean for companies?

All organizations will need to have a work from home policy and enable it for roles that are amendable to this. It is also and possibly a manager discussion scheduled where the work from home relevance for the role would have to be discussed.

ProEves Gender Balance India 2016 survey shows that 60% companies have work from home policy and 63% working women want this benefit from their employer. All organizations will need to have a work from home policy for roles that can be done from home. It will also require discussion with the manager to make this relevant and an implementable practice in the organizations. Indian companies are used to face time and physical presence and this will require companies to adapt their ways of working. There is also a need to make these policies inclusive, as employees (both men and women) require work from home option at different points in their career lifecycle.

The bill requires an establishment to inform a woman of all benefits made available under the law, at the time of her appointment. Such information must be given in writing and electronically.

What does this mean for companies?

All organizations will have to necessarily have a Maternity policy as against just saying “We follow the act”. Also managers would need to be aware of the maternity provisions while handing over the policy note to every woman recruited.

The Bill will become law after President Pranab Mukherjee’s assent

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