It had been an optimistic ending to 2015 as Union women and child development minister Maneka Gandhi said on December 28 that the government wants to increase the duration of maternity leaves for private sector. The leave duration which was earlier 12 weeks has been increased to 26 weeks. Ratul Puri, Chairman of Hindustan Powerprojects Private Limited, says, “This measure has two positive outcomes at the least – decrease in the percentage of to-be-mothers dropping out of their jobs and boost for women to breastfeed their infants for at least six months.”
Various leading MNCs have adopted this module, like e-commerce firm Snapdeal, Software product company Adobe, and technology firm Sapient India. Saurabh Nigam, vice-president—human resources, Snapdeal, says the e-commerce firm has already observed an increase in women employees rejoining the workforce after having a baby.
Snapdeal has increased its maternity leaves from 16 weeks to 25 weeks and introduced leave of 12 weeks for adoptive mothers. “We have established a two-pronged approach to ensure a smoother transition of mothers rejoining the workforce,” says Nigam.
Adobe increased its maternity leave in October to 26 weeks for both birth and adoptive mothers and two weeks of paid paternity leave. Abdul Jaleel, vice-president, people resources in India, Adobe, says, “When companies go the extra mile to support the parents, it helps them earn loyal, engaged employees.”
Sapient appoints senior women employees for women who have joined back after their maternity break. The senior advises the new mother in striking a balance between her baby responsibilities and adapting to changes in work. “It’s like a buddy programme, but for women returning from maternity leave,” says Kameshwari Rao, vice-president, people strategy, at the firm.
Ratul Puri from HPPPL says, ”Maternity leaves are not a loss to the company. In fact, it’s an investment to boost workforce stability.” He adds, “Women joining back after maternity leaves are not expected to take up work immediately at the same pace. It is a gradual reintegration which is slow and seamless. And mostly, they pick up faster than we expect.”
These factors are subject to the nature of industry as well as business cycle but, Ratul Puri adds, “Management should take care to not deprive the new mothers of benefits like appraisals, trainings, and other company benefits.”