The Indian law doesn’t provide for the concept of a caregiver beyond the mother yet some companies are implementing this through their own policies.
In March this year, India saw a landmark passing of the Maternity Bill that extended the provision of maternity leave for women from 12 weeks to 26 weeks. Even as the passing of the bill received mix reactions, a common question emerged, that opened up the age old debate of gender roles. With the recent reports of additional private companies and firms introducing paternity leave as a right for their employees, is it time that the government acknowledges and shapes changing social realities to promote gender equality in the household and workplace?
Despite the Indian law not including ‘paternity leave’ as a mandate in private workplaces, there are a few provisions for government employees and a gradual shift is being done voluntarily in the private sector. Multinational Corporations such as Microsoft and IKEA have been leading the way in India in providing men with ‘paternity’ leaves, recognising the importance and necessity of a father’s role after childbirth as well as in child rearing. In contrast, a number of European countries such as Denmark and Italy have been noted as having benefits and safeguards associated with the father’s role in household contribution after childbirth.
— Sweden in India (@SwedeninIndia) March 16, 2017
National news organisations have reported that Salesforce, the American based company has introduced a paternity leave of an impressive three months for those who are considered secondary caregivers. The company becomes the latest and by far among the most competitive in terms of offering benefits to employees. The average paternity leave, as offered by companies sans a mandate by law, in India is for 10 days post childbirth. Jnanesh Kumar, director, Employee Success (India), Salesforce was quoted as saying, “We believe offering paid paternity leave is the right thing to do, the right way to treat our employees. Becoming a new parent is a huge undertaking. For parents who are forced to take unpaid family leave, the situation becomes infinitely more challenging. A strong paternity policy helps in addressing work-life conflicts which are a reality for both men and women after the birth of a baby. More importantly, we want to encourage people in India to talk about paternity leave and remove the stigma from women.”
In a 2014 report by the International Labour Organisation that explored the practices of maternal, paternal and other care-giver leaves in workplace observed that India was not among the countires that legally recognised paternity leave. In the document, it was also observed that “Compulsory paternity leave helps to ensure that fathers share childcare responsibility with mothers and allows for greater involvement of men in the critical early stages of an infant’s development.”
India remains a country where traditional gender roles are reinforced by the law, if we are to go by the legal set up of workplace laws. The Maternity Bill in India, which among other benefits seeks to expand the maternity leave to women after childbirth had been pushed for by the Union Minister of Women and Child Development, Maneka Gandhi. However, Gandhi was also noted as saying last year that “Paternity leave can be considered only if, once the woman goes back to work after her 26 weeks of leave, we find that men are availing their sick leave for a month to take care of the child. Let me see how many men do that. I will be happy to give it but for a man, it will be just a holiday, he won’t do anything.” Gandhi’s earlier comments as well as the subsequent bill therefore raises crucial questions.
Does providing more benefits to the mother after childhood underline that only she is in charge of taking care of the child? Or are fathers too responsible for the upbringing of their children?
Paternity leave and its need must be addressed and enforced in India. Taking care of a child isn’t solely a mother’s role. https://t.co/7HW9Z617Ck
— Trisha Shetty (@TrishaBShetty) March 13, 2017
India’s 6 months paid maternity leave bill is incomplete. It puts entire child care responsibility on women. Time 2 consider paternity leave?
— Sabita Thapa (@sobst) March 28, 2017