“Sometimes the strength of motherhood is greater than natural laws” Barbara Kingsolver

In India, maternity benefits have traditionally been an area of concern, limiting working mothers from furthering themselves both in the workplace and at home. In 2017, the Maternity Benefit Act catalysed a slew of amendments that worked towards elevating the maternity landscape for women in the workforce. With newly instituted provisions for a 26-week maternity leave policy, a mandatory creche arrangement, a work-from-home option and leave options for adoptive and commissioning mothers, the act was a breath of fresh air for a legal system steeped in patriarchal legislations. Following the Act, the Labour Ministry categorically moved the cost implications of maternity benefits and measures exclusively to employers, sealing the sanctity of a new future-fit workforce of women.

The Merits of Healthy Maternity Benefits for Employers

While government sanctions have been pointed at alleviating maternal and infant mortality, maternity benefits hold a greater cause for employers in India’s metros. A comprehensive maternity policy presents expectant and new mothers with a holistic ecosystem that supports their growing needs and minimizes their dependency on external support. But it does more than just cater to a healthy women workforce. It introduces a host of benefits for employers. Here’s how:

It helps with retention

Attrition is an expensive phenomenon that employers strive to curb, because it gives rise to the need for workforce replenishment. This becomes a particular problem for specialized work in which roles are pigeonholed into specific skill sets. Arresting attrition can go a long way in augmenting the bottom line. One important thing to recognize is that new motherhood can sway some women into staying at home longer with their babies. Some may decide to take a sabbatical and delay their return to work. Here is where a longer paid maternity leave system can help. Mothers of babies up to six months old are better equipped to leave their children in the care of others than mothers of younger babies. A few years ago, Accenture doubled its maternity leave to sixteen weeks, and saw an almost 40% reduction in attrition by moms opting for full-time motherhood. Similarly, when KPMG overhauled its maternity leave policy to 18 weeks, it saw significant traction among new mothers in the workforce.

It boosts hiring

A company that can cultivate trust among women through pregnancy and parenthood can better attract superlative talent. Companies that recognize the importance of diversity observe that paid maternity leave becomes an easy point of comparison for potential hires. Globally, paternity leave is also moving into the spotlight, with many young men seeing this as an important differentiator. India too is following the trend.

It fosters a culture of inclusion

Increasingly, companies with inclusive policies are setting a precedent as transformational engines in the Indian corporate realm. Much of the stigma attached to hiring and ‘losing’ women to pregnancy is slowly being eclipsed by acceptance and an understanding that women can add just as much value after an extended leave, with the right support and tools. Many companies now offer unpaid leave that give women the option of extending their paid maternity leave, albeit at zero salary. Understandably, while a prolonged absence outside of the scope of maternity leave may affect promotion and compensation, employees must be sensitized to such implications.

By adapting to include a wider array of maternity benefits, many organizations are finding themselves with a superior, more diverse, more talented workforce than ever before.

OurHealthMate.com works with organisations to support women professionals who are mothers and choose to return to work through counselling and hand holding.

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