BENGALURU: There is no section of the population which would have benefited more from the six-and-a-half months maternity leave, approved by the Rajya Sabha on Thursday for all establishments, including the private sector, than the women of the IT capital Bengaluru.
The Rajya Sabha passed an amendment to The Maternity Benefit Act, 1961, increasing paid leave during maternity from 12 weeks to 26 weeks. It also has a provision for nursing mothers to work from home, though it is not mandatory. The Act is applicable to all establishments employing 10 or more people. It also provides 12 weeks leave for commissioning and adopting mothers and makes it mandatory for companies with 50 or more employees to provide creche facility.
According to the National Sample Survey Organisation’s data for 2012, only 22.5 per cent of women constitute the paid work force of India. Bengaluru, which was in the forefront of the IT revolution in India, has many tales of women who gave up or fell far behind in their careers post child birth.
Sushmitha M L, a former employee of IBM, who worked as assistant manager-operations, welcomed the development. Due to the lack of a support system at home, she missed out on monetary benefits at work and also had to face months of loss of pay during pregnancy.
While the work from home option hasn’t been made mandatory, women in fields like medicine or journalism cannot opt for this because of the nature of their jobs. Subsequently, they miss out on the child’s nutrition requirements and are unavailable to exclusively breast feed their infants for six months, which is a WHO recommendation.
Chetana Misra, CEO and co-founder of Mompreneurs India, a networking platform for mothers who are entrepreneurs, said, “I was struggling to manage business and family and was wondering if there are other women like me who are finding it tough. That is when I founded Mompreneurs. The aim is to create sustainable businesses for each other.”