QUEEN'S ROAD: Maternity leave once sounded the death knell of many a career. Not too long ago, motherhood also meant that young mothers could bid goodbye to challenging assignments and promotions. Things may not have undergone a complete transformation but some companies are providing an array of maternity benefits to pregnant employees.
A lot of women are also charting their own independent path outside the nine to five work day schedule.
Erstwhile hospitality professional Purnima Castelino-D’abreo, is now a senior copy writer and says, "A big challenge for me even today is being able to give quality time to each of my kids individually. By the time I’m back from work and they get home, there are so many regular tasks yet to finish. I’m lucky to not face any bias at work though, and I really appreciate that fact.”
Sharmila Shah, the founder of Wedding Bells Photography says, "There is a certain amount of bias in offices and there are times when women do not get good appraisals or appreciation for their work. There are efficient women who are doing good work in all fields but when they have kids, somehow their ability is questioned."
Adds, she,"Abroad, even men go on a maternity leave but India is possibly the only country where women have to do everything alone. I do maternity photography as well, where pregnant mothers happily pose for photographs and I can see, things are shifting just a bit because now companies have some special policies for expectant mothers.”
There are some companies which offer maternity benefits to their women employees such as Accenture that has a revised policy where apart from the 22 weeks of paid leave (five months), women are allowed to take unpaid leave for another 12 weeks, taking the total permissible leave period to nine months.
Parag Pande, managing director, Human Resources for Accenture in India, says, "Maternity is a key milestone where a significant number of women, mostly in the age group between 28 and 35 years, choose to stop working, leading to a loss of talent. The key, we believe, is having enough time to settle into a new life both as a parent and a professional. Currently in Accenture, women account for about 1, 15,000 employees which translates to roughly 36 per cent of our global workforce in 30 countries.”
The company also offers varied programmes which include having seperate maternity room facilities, maternity counselling calls, maternity returners programme, employee assistance programme,etc.
1to1help.net Pvt. Ltd. is an ISO certified company which presently imparts counselling services to employees in 150 companies in the corporate and IT sector. The company works with a team of 115 counsellors and dieticians across 20 cities in India to provide in-house training and supervision to all its counsellors. It has completed more than 1,00,000 counselling sessions, covering 1.5 million lives across India. It aims to provide assistance to the personal needs of employees; on behalf of the company, to generate a sense of employee well-being.
Karuna Baskar, director of 1to1help says, "The Healthy Maternity Programme offers women, individual help and assistance through this exciting yet challenging period of their lives and provides the support they need to make the transition back to work. Women employees will appreciate assistance given by the company at this significant time in their lives and this in turn will have an impact on their engagement and loyalty to the company. The Healthy Maternity Programme provides a combination of individual coaching, group sessions and access to online resources to create the maximum effect. Workshops for managers as well as spouses are also included in the package.”
The company also provides some additional services which include e-newsletters to expectant/new mothers at various stages, interactive workshops for expectant mothers and those returning from maternity leave, access to online / telephonic coaching,access to online resources, workshop for managers,workshop for expectant fathers (employees as well as spouses of employees).
Vikas Bhonsle, CEO, Crayon Software Experts India Pvt Ltd says, “One can never understand the importance of life until it begins to grow inside of you. Being pregnant is a very intimate and unique experience and we at Crayon believe in making this experience a memorable one."
He continues, "Our policy emphasises the importance of creating a working environment with flexible working conditions that meets the organisation’s requirements but also take into account a woman's need for a healthy, normal working day. In very special cases, we have a work-from-home option for employees who are in the first trimester of their pregnancy.”
Ruchi Bhalla, director, Human Resources, Pitney Bowes says, "We offer policies for working mothers like maternity leave extension, pregnancy workshop, work from home, conveyance, accessibility, family-hood programmes.”
Kiran Aidhi, director- HR, Virtusa says, “At Virtusa, while we have a three months paid maternity leave policy, we have not defined any such policy for the early stages of pregnancy. However, under special cases/ unforeseen circumstances, if there is a need to make an exception to the existing policy, we do so for our employees’ betterment. This is implemented in the form of flexible timings and work-from-home options. It’s the most beautiful phase in their lives, and we ensure, we do our little bit to keep them comfortable and male this phase enjoyable and memorable.”
Ani Banerjee, director, Human Resources, VMware says, “VMware is dedicated to ensuring a work-life balance for its employees and encourages a work culture that is supportive towards working parents. VMware recently updated the company’s maternity policy to include a total of four months of maternity leave for its women employees in India. We extend all the support to them during the course of their pregnancy as well. "
He adds, "While we might not have any policies governing the period of pregnancy, the company is flexible and we also work towards sensitising managers and teams towards expecting mothers."
Recognising that this is an important occasion for the family that requires the commitment and time of both parents, the paternity leave policy allows the father to avail five days of leave to bond with their new baby.
The company encourages flexible work hours and managers are sensitised towards helping new parents and allow them to work from home when need be to ensure a stable work life balance.”