Published On: Thu, Aug 27th, 2015

Eight month maternity leave needs to be thought through

New Delhi: Women and child development minister Maneka Gandhi’s proposal to extend three-month maternity leave to eight months needs to be thought through.

Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi

Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi

There is no doubt that newborns need their mothers, but extending maternity leave for eight months is not the right solution.

No company or government can afford an employee to be away for eight months, and if they are made to do so, they may not be eager to hire or promote women.

Encouraging mothers with young children to remain in the workforce is a challenge no company or government has worked out yet.

Last year, Facebook and Apple came under criticism when they offered cash incentives to their female employees to freeze and store their eggs. This, the companies claimed, was done so that women could focus on their careers.

But this idea has not caught on yet, and with many people doubtful about tampering with the ‘natural order’ it is not likely to do so anytime soon.

So what is the solution? There is no ideal one, but what is clear is the government must give companies some leeway.

Training a new person, employing them for eight months and getting rid of them when the woman returns to work is unfair to the employee, the company and to the woman herself.

Why? Because one cannot assume in today’s fast moving world, that her role would have remained the same as it was eight months ago. New skills may be required.

Therefore it is better to ask pregnant women upfront if they would like to return to work post-pregnancy. If they do, they must devote a certain number of hours to work.

The government must support this by helping to set up crèches, and allowing women to work part time from home. This is better than having a woman return to work after eight months.

Inputs with Mail Today

About the Author