The new The Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act has come at a critical time. On the one hand, the economy has witnessed a healthy growth, while on the other, there has been a decline in women’s participation in the workforce. According to data provided by the International Labour Organisation, between 2004 and 2011, women's participation in our country's labour force dropped from over 35 per cent to 25 per cent. It is thus imperative for employers to introspect if their HR policies are humane, gender- sensitive and employee- friendly enough. And whether they are doing enough to assure their women employees that they are sincere about retaining them and supporting them even when they take on the added responsibility of motherhood.
One of the biggest reasons for women dropping out of their work midway or early on, is the lack of support systems at work and at home. In the millennial urban centres such as Gurgaon, Noida, Bangalore and even in the megalopolises of Delhi and Mumbai, skilled, promising and established women professionals are often forced to choose between motherhood and a career. The absence of traditional network of family and relatives, the challenges of a nuclear family and the lack of trust in unprofessionally-run Daycares and Creches are some of the major reasons that force them to quit their careers.
As an employer who has to comply with the Maternity benefit law, to ensure your women employees return to the workforce in a healthy, supportive environment, here are the five things that you could do before onboarding new mothers :
1. Gender Sensitivity Training: While the Maternity law has ensured new mothers get 26 weeks of paid leave and access to a creche among other benefits, as an employer you could go beyond setting up a Childcare facility. It is important to train your employees in gender sensitivity to ensure greater gender parity and help you, the employer, utilise their talent much better. A significant number of women in India have expressed their disappointment with the lack of empathy and respect from their male colleagues at the workplace. This is another reason why many of them quit their jobs, especially after childbirth. Gender sensitivity training therefore has strategic implications at any employee-friendly workplace.
2. Back-to-work Prep: Counsel, train and prepare your women employees before they resume work. Encourage them to do a few trial runs - to settle down to a routine that works best for them and you. Do necessary training module to help them catch up with all the new developments, policies, new softwares, projects or clients that may have been added in their absence.
3. Do the Due Diligence: Ensure that you set up a Childcare Facility that ticks all the compliance boxes. Investigate the background of the company and look for credible testimonials. There are way too many fly-by-night operators who will make the the most of the new Maternity law. As a responsible employer, you need to do a thorough scrutiny of the centre's licenses (kitchen, transport, quality certificates etc), read the fine print in the rent and lease agreement in case the premises are not company-owned. It is also important to fine comb for any record of litigations or controversies.
4. In Sync: Scrutinise the Service Provider to ascertain if it has the right infrastructure in place to adapt to your requirements, not just today, for the future as well. For the present, it should have the physical and human resources to cater to your employees – adequate space, equipment, outdoor and indoor play areas with enough room for children and have enough number of trained eyes on them at all times. It is important to know if the service provider has outsourced any part of its operations and services to a third party. You may want to check on the arrangement before committing yourself to the company. In case you are planning to extend the facility to your other offices, would your Childcare Partner be able to scale up as well?
5. Customise your Solution: And finally, go for a Childcare Policy that works best for you and your employees. If you are in a hurry and do not have the resources to set up an onsite facility, try booking seats at a Daycare chain and offer it at a subsidised rate and other incentives to your employees. You may also want to partner multiple service providers, depending on their locations. Onsite Childcare Facility works well for mothers of infants and toddlers who may need quick and frequent access to their children. It also gives you the advantage of controlling every aspect of the structure, operations, curriculum, timing and holiday calendar. There are various models to choose from when you associate with a professional, credible Corporate Childcare Solutions Provider. Settle only for a solution that is practical, convenient, customisable and scalable.
Priya Krishnan, CEO, KLAY
Priya is an MBA from London Business School and has worked in Various leadership positions with Anderson Consulting and Mphasis across Singapore, New York, London and India.
Klay is a premium chain of 31 independent Community Childcare Centres across India, a subsidiary of Founding Years Learning Solutions Private Limited, that works towards bringing women back to work after motherhood.