Motherhood is a crucial time in the life of a working woman. Expectant mothers who are working full-time require support from their employers in the form of maternity leave and other health benefits. While the extent of these benefits depends on the HR policies of each organization, there are some minimum requirements laid down by the law.
The Maternity Benefits Act, 1961
The law mandates that expectant mothers are entitled to 12 weeks of paid maternity leave: six weeks prior to delivery and six weeks after giving birth. The law also forbids organizations from showing any discriminatory behavior towards pregnant women. No organization can terminate the employment of a woman on the grounds of her pregnancy. A pregnant woman is required to give a written notice of the period for which she will be absent.
Additionally, pregnant women are allowed an additional month of sick leave, if the leave is for a health problem caused by the pregnancy, and the relevant proof is submitted. In the case of a miscarriage, women are allowed six weeks' leave from the date of the miscarriage.
Once the mandatory requirements are taken care of, HR policies can be as liberal as the organization chooses. There has been growing awareness of the effects that stress (experienced by pregnant women) can have on the health (physical and mental) of the mother as well as the child later in life. With this in mind, organizations are increasingly creating more flexible policies to benefit expectant mothers. In addition to extended maternity leaves, companies are also offering benefits such as maternity claims, travel allowances during pregnancy, flexible working hours, and assistance with daycare services.
In recent times, organizations have been creating attractive maternity policies for women who are planning motherhood. Workplaces such as Google, Flipkart, InMobi, and Accenture, to name a few, have extended maternity leave of five to six months. This is followed by flexible work options, where the mother can work from home or avail of flexible hours in which she can work. Women are also entitled to maternity cover and travel allowances in the period leading up to the maternity leave.
One important area has been the introduction of crèches at the workplace; in some cases, they also have workstations there so the mother can work by her baby's side. Many organizations also have tie-ups with daycare centers and assist new mothers in availing of this service. Companies also have dedicated nursing rooms in their offices.
These policies aim to allow new mothers a smooth transition back into the workplace, having devoted their attention to the baby during the nursing period. The reduced stress also boosts the mother's mental health and dramatically reduces the risk of mental illness in the prenatal and postpartum period.
While both central and state government employees are eligible for a 15-day paternity leave, there is no such law for people working in private organizations. However, several organizations nowadays are starting to recognize the father's role during pregnancy and after birth. To allow for the father to fulfill his domestic responsibilities, organizations such as Facebook have started introducing paid paternal leave policies, extending up to four months.
As new mothers return to work, they may have a hard time adjusting to the new reality and may also feel the pangs of separation from the newborn child. If they are solely taking care of the household, their stress increases multifold. In such a scenario, they would love to receive support and the right tools to keep them going.
That's where Manah can help. Mothers returning to work can avail of our Emotional health assessments which assess several aspects of their lives – sleep, anxiety, appetite, depressive symptoms, social life, relationship with self, and a lot more. The test instantly gives them an initial report, after which they are required to have a confidential 1:1 with a qualified therapist, who will further assess their current emotional health and later on generate a detailed report with actionable steps they can take to enrich their wellbeing.
If you wish to make your organization more sensitive to motherhood needs, you can also offer Wellbeing champion training wherein managers and employees will be trained to offer emotional first-aid in case of emotional crises.
Let's lend a compassionate hand and a listening ear to our colleagues who are returning to work as new moms. Your support can mean the world to them.