Not Availing Maternity Leaves: Is it Advisable?
- Indian Masterminds Bureau
- Published on 18 Oct 2020, 6:11 pm IST
- 4 minutes read
People at large applauded the two women IAS officers when, in the times of Covid 19, they joined office with their new-born babies. But their decision has now come under scanner.
- IAS officer Saumya Pandey in office with her baby
At first blush, women employees forsaking maternity leaves and appearing in office with their new-born babies are bound to trigger applause from colleagues. And if these moms happen be to two IAS officers- Saumya Pandey in Uttar Pradesh and Srijana Gummala in Andhra Pradesh- the Twitterati too hits the roof with unbridled hysteria. `Look how these two civil servants have set new standards for the working women,’ becomes the common refrain on social media.
But scratch the surface a bit, and a few unsavory truths also tumble out. In India, as in several other countries of the world, the right to maternity leaves was obtained after prolonged fight with the powers that be. So what exactly is the (unintended) message these mom-IAS officers are trying to give? That forfeiting the leaves is a sign of courage?
The fact remains that the leaves are sanctioned primarily for the health of the mother and her baby.
Last week when Ms Saumya Pandey appeared in the office with her 20-day old baby, the photo went viral in the social media. But it also raised some eyebrows.
Noted author Mrinal Pande has tweeted: “Working women of my generation won the right to paid maternity leave after a long battle against a system that denied risks all working women incur when they give birth. Most women in unorganized sector still do not get maternity leave w disastrous impact on their health.’’
Senior Journalist Rakhee Bakshi, who also runs a popular portal her-world.in agrees with Mrinal Pandey to large extent. Speaking with Indian Masterninds, Rakhee says, “one has to be careful about putting across the right narrative, as also the message. For the personal choice (of forfeiting their maternity leaves), I salute these IAS officers. After all, they are real achievers. But look at the message they are giving out. Being civil servants, they have all the comforts in their office to take care of the babies. But do all women employees across India share these privileges and comforts? I don’t think so.’’
Secondly, points out Rakhee, nobody would have objected to these officers for availing the maternity leaves. But they had sent a wrong message by not doing so, because majority of women employees will find it very hard to emulate, she adds.
And one shouldn’t overlook the real danger from Covid19, to a mom going to office with her new-born baby. By all indications, coronavirus does not bow to authority.
Maternity Leaves as Women’s Right
It may come as a shock to some, but in India the right to maternity leaves was handed over to the women full 14 years after Independence, courtesy the Maternity Benefit Act of 1961. This Act sanctioned 12 weeks of maternity leaves to women. Obviously this was not sufficient, and so the 2017 amendments to the Act extended maternity leave to 26 months.
Let’s have a quick look at the global scenario. According to a recent report in Businessinsider, Expecting mothers in Finland can start their maternity leaves seven weeks before their estimate date of delivery. After the delivery, the woman is offered 14 weeks of paid maternity leave, and the father too gets eight weeks of paid paternity leave.
In Sweden, both new parents are entitled to 480 days of leave at 80 percent of their normal salary. In Hungary, moms can avail of 24 months of paid leave at 70 percent of their salary; and they are entitled for it four weeks before the estimated delivery date.
In the end, the entire argument boils down to two points: having a baby is a woman’s right, but ensuring its health and well-being is her responsibility. The argument, as the two IAS officers have demonstrated, is far from settled. We at Indian Masterminds will follow the issue as it unfolds further.
END OF THE ARTICLE