After completing her M.Sc in Biotechnology and MBA in International Trade and Logistics, Parul Mathur, a resident of Delhi (NCR), had no difficulty in getting jobs in some of the reputed pharmaceutical companies. While her career graph was shooting upwards, Parul had to take sabbatical after the delivery of her child in 2010. As most of the family members lived far off, Parul had no option but to take care of her son at home.
After few years, Parul felt she could join back again and started applying for job. To her dismay, she found that due to sabbatical, she had lost the advantage of experience that she had earned over the years and the job options were now almost negligible. However, not the one to give up so easily, Parul decided to change her domain and started learning from scratch.
“Having lost it all, it was not at all easy to start afresh in a domain that was new to me,” says Parul. Although she was able to excel in the new domain as well, this transitioning phase, was not easy. To her surprise when she started connecting with other working women, she found that they too shared the same story. Either they had to leave their jobs or had to leave their young one for long hours because they were not given any flexibility in their offices.
“The pressure of leaving for work at 8 in the morning and coming home at 8 at night leaves no other option other than to quit work altogether. Only very few big companies in our country have day care centres within office premises,” says Parul who decided to raise voice against this with the help of change.org.
“As a step to empower women, the government of India passed the Maternity (Amendment) Bill 2017 on March 27, 2017. This was an amendment to the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961,” says Parul.
The Maternity Benefit Amendment Act makes crèche facilities mandatory for every establishment with 50 or more employees. Women employees are to be permitted to visit the crèche 4 times during the day (including rest intervals).
Parul conducted a casual poll in an online community for mothers and came across shocking facts: The mothers there said that not only were creche facilities unavailable but also most of the companies were denying all other benefits stated in the maternity benefit act.
“Through the poll it was quite evident that the women empowerment acts are not being implemented earnestly and nobody really cares if they are bringing any change or not,” stresses Parul.
Through her #BringHerBack change.org petition, Parul wants the government to seriously probe if the ‘Maternity Benefit Act’ is actually being implemented by the companies. Says Parul, “We want the government to:
- Start a nationwide probe to see how effectively the Act is being implemented and why the women are still being denied their rights even after the amendment in the Maternity Benefit Act.
- Establish a regulatory authority to monitor the implementation of the Maternity Benefit Act and its Amendment.
- To estimate how many companies abide by the law by providing all the maternity benefits to women employees, as directed by the government and to blacklist the companies who do not.
- To increase the fine for non-compliance.The Act provides that if any employer contravenes to the provisions or the rules of the Act, the employer can be subjected either with imprisonment which may extend to one year, or with a fine which may extend to five thousand rupees, or with both.
#BringHerBack change.org petition, which was started few months back, has already garnered 13,355 signatures and the numbers are steadily increasing. “This is the time to raise our voice to include women in the mainstream workforce too,” says Parul who urges citizens to sign this petition in large number and help all the working women in realising their dreams.
The other important aspects of the Maternity Benefit Amendment Act are:
Increased Paid Maternity Leave
The Maternity Benefit Amendment Act has increased the duration of paid maternity leave available for women employees from 12 weeks to 26 weeks.
Work from Home Option
The Maternity Benefit Amendment Act has also introduced an enabling provision relating to “work from home” for women, which may be exercised after the expiry of the 26 weeks leave period.
The Maternity Benefit Amendment Act also makes it mandatory for employers to educate women about the maternity benefits available to them at the time of their appointment.