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A Small Step For Flipkart, A Giant Step For Women!

This week, e-commerce major Flipkart created headlines when it extended its maternity leave given to female employees to a total of 24 weeks. Additionally, they are now given the option of four months of flexi-working hours with full pay, and, if required a one-year career break without pay. They will also provide parking privileges, transport reimbursements and other health related facilities to expecting as well as new mothers. This is in line with the initiatives of other companies like Accenture, Citibank and Vodafone, which are slowly changing their maternity policies and benefits to woo new mothers. A recent Annual Employee Health and Benefits study by consultancy Marsh revealed that a majority of employers believe that benefits such as these help employee retention and attraction.

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The Government of India has certain established rules as far as maternity and paternity benefits are concerned. The Maternity Benefit Act (MBA) is a law passed in India, in December 1961. It regulates the employment of women in all work establishments (employing 10 or more people), for a certain period before and after childbirth, and provides for maternity benefits. According to MBA, a female employee is entitled to 12 weeks of maternity leave. It is according to the Act unlawful for an employer to discharge or dismiss an employee during or on account of maternity leave. The Central Government in 1999 by notification under Central Civil Services (Leave) Rule 551 (A) made provisions for paternity leave for a male Central Government employee (including an apprentice and probationer) with less than two surviving children, for a period of 15 days to take care of his wife and new born child. He can avail this leave 15 days before or within 6 months from the date of delivery of child, and this applies to the case of an adopted child as well.

In May 2014, CSR conducted a study to analyze the effectiveness of the implementation of the MBA, and found that while government institutions implemented the MBA in a significant way, the same could not be said for the private sector. (The detailed study) Therefore, news of these changed maternal policies of major corporate giants comes as a welcome one. It is heartening to see that maternity leave and maternity benefits are now increasingly getting a long overdue importance in the HR policies of prominent companies.

Not just in India, but across the world, motherhood is made out to be an obstacle to a woman’s successful career. Many women take career breaks, and quit their jobs, to be with their new born children. Due to this, many a times, their career suffers. As nations move towards establishing a gender equal and balanced workforce, it becomes imperative to provide women with the necessary resources to manage such a significant life event.

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