Contract staff in Chennai Corpration deprived of maternity leave

Contract staff at Ripon Building, who usually draw a salary between Rs 9,000-Rs 15,000 a month work in various departments, such as solid waste management, health, special projects, etc.

Published: 15th June 2022 02:19 AM  |   Last Updated: 15th June 2022 02:19 AM   |  A+A-

Pregnant Woman

Representational Image. (File Photo)

Express News Service

CHENNAI:  While permanent women government staff working in the Ripon Building are entitled to a year’s paid maternity leave, the contract staff of Chennai Corpration who work in the same building are often at the mercy of their respective department heads to avail maternity leave.

A 28-year-old contract staff Ajitha* who returned to work after delivery in 2019 found out that she had been replaced. Four other women staff narrated similar stories.

"If we want maternity leave, sometimes two or three months are sanctioned on the condition that it will be unpaid leave. However, there is no guarantee that your job will be waiting for you upon return. In my case, thankfully there was a vacancy in another section of the department. Others were not so lucky," recounted Ajitha.

Contract staff at Ripon Building, who usually draw a salary between Rs 9,000-Rs 15,000 a month work in various departments, such as solid waste management, health, special projects, etc.

At present, according to senior corporation officials, there are about 50 contract staff at the headquarters. In addition, there are around 4,000 conservancy workers under NULM and another 15,000 contract workers, of whom more than half are women. Many of them were a part of the civic body's COVID-19 response team.

Rithika*, who was part of the team, said she was forced to work during in 2020 even though she was pregnant with her first child. "I did not have the courage to ask for leave because my job is not secure and I'm easily replaceable," she said.

Women wait until the last minute to ask for leave because of this reason, she added. When contacted, a senior corporation official said the decision to grant maternity leave was subject to terms and conditions laid out by the heads of the department.

"We have recently received verbal instructions from the labour department to make provisions. At present, the head each department will decide whether or not to grant maternity leaves to the staff," said the official.

The same goes for sanitary workers under contract and NULM (National Urban Livelihoods Mission). Thirty-year-old Sylvia*, a sanitary worker under NULM working in Thirumangalam, became pregnant 10 years after marriage.

However, she was denied leave by her superiors at the zonal level. "I worked until I was seven months into my pregnancy. Then my legs began to swell and I was forced to take leave. They said they can give me a month's leave at most without pay and that there was no guarantee that I will be taken back after the delivery," Sylvia said.

Sylvia and her husband, both conservancy workers, had been working for the corporation for 12 years. Sylvia offered to have her sister replace her while she was on leave, but this offer was rejected by the officials.

(*name changed)


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