Out of 100 working women, 48 leave their jobs once they become mothers. This is not a decade old statistics, but this was revealed very recently in November 2015 at the “Women in the World Summit” in Delhi. And India’s GDP could rise by up to 2% if these women were retained at the workplace. Hostile work environment, not getting required salary hike, promotions withheld due to long maternity leaves, and also societal expectations – exasperated with all these, most women quit their jobs – since quitting motherhood is not an option.
To ease this discomfort, organisations have been revamping their policies around maternity in the recent past. Does this policy change help women retain their jobs? A company might offer 6-month of maternity leave but how does it facilitate to give her a work-life balance thereafter?
What does India's Maternity Benefits Act, 1961 say?
In India, according to the Maternity Benefits Act,1961, female workers in the private sector are entitled to a maximum of 12 weeks (84 days) of maternity leave. Out of these 12 weeks, six weeks leave is post-natal leave. In case of miscarriage or medical termination of pregnancy, a worker is entitled to six weeks of paid maternity leave. Employees are also entitled to one additional month of paid leave in case of complications arising due to pregnancy, delivery, premature birth, miscarriage, medical termination or a tubectomy operation (two weeks in this case).
However, last year, the Ministry of Labour has accepted what Women and Child Development Ministry recommended, and is set to extend the maternity leave from 12 to 26 weeks. The Bill is supposed to be introduced in the Parliament for ratification.
What do private organisations offer now?
Much before Government’s recommendation, a lot of private organisations in India have been tweaking the maximum leaves a woman can take before and after delivery. Prabir Jha, who is now the Global Chief People Officer of Cipla, is probably one of the very few HR Heads who thought about the problem much before anyone else could. Almost a decade back, in Dr Reddy’s Laboratories, he had changed it to 6 months. He followed the same thing when he joined Tata Motors. “Both my wife and I work. And we have seen (in our lives), it’s not easy for a woman to come back to work 3 months after delivering a baby. She needs more time. If you don’t give these women at least 6 months, it won’t be easy for you to retain them. You need to be sensitive to matters like this,” Jha said.
In recent years, companies like Reliance Industries (incidentally Jha was President and Group CHRO), Microsoft India, PepsiCo, Nestle, HCL, Star India, Standard Chartered, Flipkart have fully paid 6 months of maternity leaves. The salary is credited in the accounts every month till the end of six months. For a start-up like Zopper, although their official maternity leaves are for 6 months, they however, pay for three. There are other companies which follow the Maternity Benefits Act, 1961. TCS, Genpact, MakeMyTrip, British Telecom, Concentrix, Appster follow the law of the land and allow women to take 3 months of fully paid maternity leaves.
Almost all the companies that People Matters reached out to, and which agreed to share their inputs on maternity policies said women can extend their leaves depending on their medical conditions and needs but those will be without pay.
Extra steps companies are taking to make it work for women
To help cope up with the challenges of motherhood alongside work, most of the companies have also structured their policies around it. The need to retain talent is one of the reasons why they have started giving importance to facilities which will help women balance work and life at ease. Work from home options, flexi-time arrangements or choosing the shift time, in-house day-care/crèche or tie-up with other day-care, Life coach support by HCL or Returning Moms Program by Genpact, Transport benefit, dedicated parking spots, onsite mothers’ room for lactation by Flipkart – these are few of the assistances that most of the other companies are also offering to women. Microsoft offers flexible work arrangement for up to 2 years, Reliance Industries, Flipkart, Zopper also favour flexi-timings once a new mom joins work.
While HCL, Genpact and Flipkart offer day-care facilities (HCL has 7 in-house day care centres taking care of 200 kids), Flipkart provides crèche facilities for child up to 4 years of age and if enrolled in the company’s crèche, Flipkart bears 50% of the cost. While most companies are drafting their policies around it, Flipkart seems to have mastered its policies with dedicated parking spots, onsite mothers’ room for lactation and also they pay Rs 600 per day transport benefit as reimbursement for 2 months before going on maternity break. The idea has clicked with many women who are mothers and are working—“Over past few years we have seen a healthy increase in the return ratio and today we have 98% of women going on Maternity Leaves resuming career,” said an HCL spokesperson.
Do their appraisals and variables take a break when women are on maternity break?
Companies are not reluctant to appraise and give variables to women on maternity leaves. But this is one area where organisations have differed with regard to appraisals. Few have very straight forward policies – companies like Star India, Standard Chartered, Zopper take into account the previous performance ratings/last year ratings to calculate appraisals. However, British Telecom, Nestle, Microsoft (although they have done away with annual appraisals), Flipkart, PepsiCo follow the amount of work the woman has done in that year. For Flipkart, if the work is less than 3 months, then they straight-away rate with ‘Meets Expectations’, while Reliance Industries calculate those 3 months and then this is extrapolated in 12 months to arrive at a rating. Genpact has done away with formal appraisal system for women going on maternity break – “If the employee has been on leave for less than four months in the last year, the performance rating is based on the employee’s performance without the leave-period affecting her rating in any way. If the leave has been for more than four months, the last cycle’s rating is considered for increment.”
Variable pay is where the companies mostly agree. Most of the organisations pay full variables – like MakeMytrip, Star India, Flipkart, Genpact. For Microsoft, “variable pay is based on business impact created over an entire fiscal year. Employees on maternity leave set their core priorities for the time they are at work in a fiscal year. They are assessed based on the business impact created against those priorities agreed upon with their managers.” Reliance Industries pays bonus on the performance rating. The employee avails the bonus for the period of presence and Maternity Leave during the performance year. For Zopper, “performance bonus will be paid keeping overall performance as parameter in working days.”
Says Satheesh K V, Director – Total Rewards at Flipkart, “Over the years, we have noticed that motherhood is a period when a significant number of women decide to stop working. New mothers always find it difficult to adjust to their dual roles. Our intent here is to slowly get them acclimatised to this dual role and eventually get them comfortable with work life. We have not only focused on extending the maternity leave period to six months, but also designed it in a manner to help them get back to work life smoothly. We want to support women employees achieve work-life balance as they continue to focus on their careers. With the introduction of these policies, Flipkart aims to create a safe, secure and an inclusive workplace.”
Rajnish Sinha, Senior Vice President, Human Resources, Genpact wrote, “Diversity is one of our key priorities at Genpact and taking care of our women employees is most important. Women form 37% of our total workforce and we intend to raise the numbers through focused programs aimed to recruit, train, develop and retain women. We are continuously putting in our best efforts to ensure that motherhood doesn’t become a career derailer for any woman.”
Rohit Thakur, Head of Human Resources, Microsoft India said, “We are committed to fostering a healthy work-life balance by enhancing productivity and efficiency for our employees through a flexible work environment as part of our workplace advantage philosophy. All our employees are offered the opportunity to explore flexible work options, which helps them stay connected seamlessly and ‘work from anywhere’… Our infrastructure enables all employees, including new parents, to be mobile while continuing to be collaborative and engaged, even when they are not in office.”
Abhishek Sharma, Vice President & Head of HR, Times Internet Limited wrote, “Business leaders are always considerate to new parents & provide as much support required in order to provide comfort keeping productivity at par.”
Jojo Mathews, Senior Director - HR, India and UAE of Concentrix said, “Concentrix is an inclusive employer and ensures that women employees on maternity leave do not lose out on any benefits – monetary or otherwise. We provide them with a leave period of 4 months with full pay after which new mothers have the opportunity to avail options such as working from home, working part time and flexible work hours. In addition, our comprehensive wellness programmes include health camps, pharmaceutical discounts and health helpline that provides general medical advice and healthy diet tips, ensuring that they are always cared for by Concentrix.”
An HCL spokesperson said, “We understand balancing aspirations, demands, responsibilities and trying to do our best may not be easy at all times and could take a toll on an individual. Keeping the same in mind we have crafted practices to improve their morale and motivation and most importantly to support them throughout these changes and help them conquer challenges by empowering and enabling them both in their personal and professional spheres.”
(Our efforts in curating this article wouldn’t have been possible without the prompt responses of the companies we have mentioned here. A special thanks to each and everyone who responded to all the questions, discussed at length with me about the policies.)
People Matters would like to thank:
- Prabir Jha, Global Chief People Officer, Cipla,
- Rohit Thakur, Head of HR, Microsoft India,
- Rajnish Sinha, Senior VP-HR, Genpact,
- Satheesh K V, Director – Total Rewards at Flipkart,
- Jojo Mathews, Senior Director - HR, India and UAE of Concentrix,
- Aarti Bharadwaj, HR Business Partner at Appster,
- Abhimanyu Kumar, part of the Performance, Rewards & OD team at Reliance Industries Ltd,
- Neeraj Jain, CEO & Co-founder, Zopper,
- PepsiCo, MakeMyTrip, Standard Chartered, Nestle, British Telecom, Star India, and
- our Are You In The List Winners WhatsApp group who helped with timely inputs.
- And Thanks to Ester Martinez, the Editor-in-Chief of People Matters for the wonderful guidance.