Will Maternity Bill affect hiring women?

With barely two days to the Amendment to the Maternity Bill , we have raging debates in the media with Deccan Chronicle and Scoopwhoop raising the burning questions. Will this put a check on hiring women? Would taking six months off from the work, make a women talent irrelevant?

Canada and Norway offers 50 and 44 weeks as Maternity Benefit respectively. Did that stop the employers from hiring women? Census reveals that by 2014, women made up almost half (47%) of the entire Canadian workforce! Same for Norway, where the women workforce make upto 47% in public and 26% in private sector according to a study released in 2008! Since the number of jobs and talent entering the workforce have increased, can we expect a bigger number by now? But then these are countries other than India. So let’s take a look at what is going to challenge hiring Women in the workforce:

  1. It’s anybody’s guess that the employer would hesitate from hiring a woman in the child-bearing age because of the added cost.
  2. The needs of a six-month old baby would be only slightly less than a three-month old one.
  3. So suppose the man is getting at least half as many offs as the woman is getting, won’t the employer be less biased against women?

Here’s my question to the employers. If you choose not hire women to save on your six-months salary, will that help your attrition cost too? Given the fact that women, especially when they start a family looks for stability, hence are way more loyal to men who would job-hop at the drop of a hat, would that still make hiring women costly? As an employer does it makes sense to hire a competitive talent who won’t resign for the next few years, for the conducive environment that you are building? More importantly, doesn’t the men in the same firm remain productive just because their wives were taking care of the child at home? And somehow the employers hiring those women are readily bearing the cost!

Secondly, the needs of the baby cannot be categorised so broadly. We live in a world where there are nuclear families. Not every woman can hire a nanny or house help to take care of the baby as she is away. Compared to earlier days, the support-system is down to the parent who needs to meet every demand for raising a child. How does then it makes sense to narrow the timeline for an infant? Especially in a country where mall nutrition in babies does not remain specific to any economic group.

Finally, were men waiting for the bill to be passed so that they can wash off their hands from the responsibility of an infant-care? In a country where ‘Dads changing nappies because Moms need to attend a business meeting’ is a luxury to few, how much does this Bill change the behaviour?

Back in the days, where the IT Parks suddenly tightened the rules on women security, there were similar doubts raised towards hiring women. Did that stop the number of women in the workforce grow? Similar costs were calculated down to every dime with the increase in hiring security personnel and adding video cameras for round the clock surveillance. Every challenge brings in a new solution, such as rise in the number of women cab drivers since the Uber incident.

What fuelled the change where fears met solutions? Did we hear the rise in the telecommute way back in 90’s? Inspite of the adoption of this work design, the resistance remains as the companies can afford huge work spaces to accommodate every employee. FaceTime and cubicle will remain in vogue till we have socio-economic changes disrupting them.

The Bill clearly mentions the option for Telecommute. However, that is being ignored largely, as the adoption of such systems will take time to become a norm. In the view of emerging work format, how does the Bill look like in the future? Would it allow a women to plan her career and family in parallel? If a woman needs to remain out of workforce for a declared duration, does that allow her to be up-skilled and plan for greater responsibilities? It would call for sponsoring such growths within the company. Is n’t the woman who is taking a break for child care, a wife to a man who could remain productive to his employer, just because she was at home?

Cyclic unemployment is norm, thanks to the repeated business cycle changes that we have experienced. This goes same for men and women. Losing a job due to diminishing revenue or policy changes no longer stops a career. Even men have to up-skill, relocate and network to find a new job! Companies have openly acknowledge hiring talent out of workforce.

In case such measures are not enough to meet the employment required, we have Gig Economy offering interesting jobs to build a promising portfolio.

Every benefit offered turns into a hygiene factor even before we know. How soon would this 26 weeks turn into a norm with no one even discussing about them, we will wait to see!

If you have any HR Query or any query on Future of Work, please email me nabomita@nabomita.com . Looking forward to learn more while finding solutions for you.

Recommended reading: Maternity Benefit , Diversity  , We Are Equal , Future of Work

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