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Financial Express: Maternity Benefit Bill, 2016: From Anand Mahindra to TeamLease and Paypal: Will this hurt employment of more women? Here’s what they said!

A historic decision for India's working women deserves much celebration and discussion. Yes, we are referring to the much awaited and now celebrated Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Bill, 2016, which was passed by the Lok Sabha yesterday.

A historic decision for India’s working women deserves much celebration and discussion. Yes, we are referring to the much awaited and now celebrated Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Bill, 2016, which was passed by the Lok Sabha yesterday. Prime Minister Narendra Modi referred to it as ‘a landmark moment in our efforts to women-led development.’ This is also the first time the Act introduces a significant provision that every organisation which has 50 or more employees will be needed to provide creche facilities within a specified distance and the woman who avails this shall be allowed four visits a day.

India’s growing tribe of working women have every reason to rejoice when the Lok Sabha passed the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Bill, 2016. This move is estimated to benefit about 1.8 million women in the organized sector.

However, this development also raises an important question: Will this hurt hiring/employment of women by hiring agencies and recruiters?

Anand Mahindra, Mahindra Group’s Executive Chairman, tweeted, “Not at all. Which employer will shut their access to 50% of the talent pool in the country?”

Rituparna Chakraborty, Co-Founder & Executive Vice President, TeamLease Services Ltd told FE Online, “Amidst all apprehension around the new Maternity Bill, I do welcome it. Looking at the brighter side, this might actually bring in a lot more clarity in the minds of corporates, who earlier used to spend doing the guessing game on whether the employee shall come back after the maternity break of three months or extend it and brings a lot of peace to the new moms who can come to work having seen through the early and delicate stages of their newborn babies.”

She further stated, “What I would have definitely liked is an enhancement in the paternity leave policy as well. Women cannot be continued to be viewed as the one responsible solely for child rearing. That in no way is equitable.”

We put this question to companies and several top HR professionals in the country. While Tesco Bengaluru is now all set to welcome the new legislation by tweaking its maternity policy from 22 to 26 weeks and roll out the inauguration of its new, improved child care centre at their campus, PayPal’s maternity policy includes leave for 26 weeks with enhanced facilities, whereas Flipkart’s Koramangala office already offers special perks like car parking slots as part of its maternity benefits six months ahead of delivery.

Speaking exclusively to FE Online, HR experts are of the view that the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Bill, 2016 will have minimal impact on women’s employment and hiring by recruiters and agencies.

Krity Sharma, Head – People, Tesco Bengaluru told FE Online, “We fully support and applaud this new legislation which ensures the wellness for both mother and child. Tesco Bengaluru will be making necessary changes to the existing maternity leave policy, which currently entails 22 weeks and an additional month for illness arising out of pregnancy. Our policy already includes 10 days of paternity leave, ensuring that both mother and father are able to spend more time with the new member. Aligning our policies with the government legislation, we are also inaugurating our new, improved child care centre at our campus with enhanced facilities to provide a more holistic support to our colleagues.”

Jayanthi Vaidyanathan, Director, Human Resources, PayPal told FE Online, “This is indeed a historic move that will encourage more women to stay in the workforce and have fulfilling careers. Industry reports suggest that 41% of women in technoloogy tend to leave mid-career, most notably around childbearing years. At Paypal, our maternity policy includes leave for 26 weeks and our enhanced adoption as well as paternity leave policies include 16 weeks for our female employees and 10 days of paternity leave.”

However, a niggling concern remains: whether recruiters may be prone to bias while hiring more women.

Gautam Ghosh, HR professional and Social Media Influencer, who has earlier been with Flipkart, Phillips and Deloitte, told FE Online, “This is a welcome step and may go a long way in addressing women’s rights. In most organizations, it won’t have much of an impact on hiring women employees. I see the threshold as marginal. Be it entry level openings or middle level, the impact will be minimal. I also do not think it will have an impact on the cost structure. Individuals who opt to drop out will do so irrespective of the maternity benefits and perks that are given to them by companies.”

He further stated, “At Flipkart’s Koramangala office, we gave benefits six months before delivery such as guaranteed car parking to women as part of their maternity benefit to ease their stress in finding parking spots. A challenge, however, is that this move may create a bias among recruiters.”

India is building a world view model of workplace inclusivity, more maternity benefits to follow, says Abhijit Bhaduri 

This is indeed a big worry for women professionals who are looking to switch jobs mid-career or looking at alternatives during their child-bearing years.

Ruchi Bhatia, HR Professional and Social Media Influencer, told FE Online, “Progressive companies will welcome this move as they have already been extending such maternity benefits to women employees. This will not affect hiring nor will it create any bias in the minds of recruiters while hiring more women.”

According to People Matters report on its website, companies such as HCL, Flipkart, Microsoft, P&G, Nestle, RIL, Tata Group and others already provide 6 months paid maternity leave.

Signaling a brighter side to this discussion, Rituparna Chakraborty, Co-Founder & Executive Vice President, TeamLease Services Ltd sums up how this Maternity Bill is likely to hire more women, “Finally, I do believe talent and merit shall win in the long run. We should continue to invest in policies, signalling, orchestrated social transformation to get women to come to work and don’t see maternity policy as a deal maker.”

Wrapping up this discussion, we would like to conclude with Anand Mahindra’s inspiring tweet: ”Which employer will shut their access to 50% of the talent pool in the country?”