While companies are trying to crack the code of gender diversity, they are also struggling to fill talent gaps created in the event of 'maternity continuum' of women employees, says AVTAR Group's Viewport 2018 report.
For 95 percent of the managers, the major concern is how to build an alternate resource equivalent in talent to fill in for her unanticipated temporary absence after an employee announces her pregnancy. In fact, the companies also face uncertainty on whether or not the employee will continue in the organization after announcing her pregnancy.
For about 61 percent of managers feel that 'maternity continuum' is a huge challenge impacting business continuity, especially when the woman employee is in a client facing roles or is not an individual contributor. On the other hand, 88 percent of women felt that in the absence of guidance and support from mentors, managing uncertainty was a huge challenge, especially when there were health challenges involved.
Image Source: AVTAR Group's Viewport 2018
The recent amendment to the Maternity Benefit Act more than doubled the duration of fully paid maternity leaves for women from 12 weeks to 26 weeks but these holidays are often not enough. During or after pregnancy female employees tend to take additional leaves and 59 percent of women said the aftermath of unplanned leaves was huge and put additional stress on them. Additionally, the companies felt that managers also have to manage her workload which means delegating work of the employee to others on the same team that if not well planned might result in overloading them. The report further revealed that managers also find themselves in dilemma on when to start preparing an employee to return from maternity.
After the changes in the Maternity Benefit Act India is the third best country in terms of the length of paid maternity leave given to women ahead of most countries (France, Germany, Australia, Japan and the US) in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. While the Maternity Benefit Act of 1961 witnessed a progressive amendment in the year 2017, the struggle of companies and women employees still continues.
Maternity continuum refers to phases of maternity that a woman professional goes through in the event of pregnancy; the phases being pre-maternity, during maternity and post maternity. The continuum traces a woman professional's journey through the pregnancy stage up to rejoining post-maternity leave.
(Viewport 2018 report is an outcome of a focus group discussion conducted among 275 working mothers and 150 corporate leaders in India by diversion and inclusion consultants AVTAR Group.)