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Do you actually think a leave of three months is good enough for a woman executive to get back to her career leaving her new-born in the hands of a nanny?
Unfortunately many companies continue to feel a twelve-week leave is more than enough. They do not think about the support systems or about the adjustments a woman has to make after giving birth to a child. The Result? They lose their women executives.
Harleen Arora, a senior executive with a multinational bank quit her post when her request for more than those twelve weeks of maternity leave by the content management firm she was working for, was unceremoniously turned down. It has been two years now and she regrets her decision. She thinks she could have tried to retain her job by negotiating with her boss, rather than giving in to her personal circumstances.
Meenakshi, another 26 year old executive, found herself in the same situation after giving birth to her child.
In fact 48 per cent of the women in India have to give up their careers in the mid-way owing to their family responsibilities. Those who donâ€™t give up, end up taking too many leaves to care for their children and assume their family responsibilities. This will in turn affect their appraisal prospects and promotions.
In some way this affects the companies too. Not only do they lose talent, they will have to spend extra time and money on recruiting new people and training them to fill up the positions. Even after doing so, the new employees may or may not be able to contribute much towards the profitability and the success of the company, the way the previous employees did.
Many companies today are now introducing changes in their policies so as to accommodate women employees
They are coming up with flexible working hours
They are introducing better facilities
They have increased the paid maternity leave period from 3 months to six months
They are giving the option to new mothers to bring their babies to work on certain days of the week
They are providing supporting services to care for their little ones
They are considering them at par with the other employees for performance appraisals, promotions, trainings and other developmental opportunities, in spite of their long maternity leaves
They are providing work-from-home opportunities for women to help them strike a balance between their work and family
Many organizations have been offering additional leave for adoption and surrogacy, apart from the maternity leave.
Coca-Cola gives a leave of 15-days for women employees who wish to adopt a child.
Airtel gives 12 weeks of leave and six weeks if the age of the child is below two years.
ICICI Bank supports adoptive parents by giving 36 days of paid leave every year to single fathers and women employees till their children complete two years of age. Apart from this, the company also offers fertility leave of 180 days for employees who are undergoing fertility treatments. By offering seamless access to their IT applications, ICICI also offers work-from-home option to its women employees. Embracing advanced technology has helped ICICI do this. It has a 3-level security process that has features like facial recognition and unique in-built identity check to ensure the protection of its data at all times.
PNB MetLife has also started granting a period of four-week leave to its women employees as a maternity benefit, be it even for adoption or surrogacy. In case of a miscarriage, there is a recovery period too.
Bharti Airtel, the top telecom operator, has increased the period of its maternity leave from 12 weeks to 22 weeks, thereby promoting gender diversity at all levels. It is also offering flexible work options to make sure working mothers take their time to get adjusted to the full day work timings. In its office at Gurgaon, the company even offers modern day-care facilities for the children of its employees. It has been offering maximum support to its employees by making such changes to its policies.
Many companies such as Flipkart, Snapdeal, Tata Group, Accenture, Deutsche Bank, Hindustan Unilever, Microsoft and HCL Technologies have recognized the importance of offering a six-month paid maternity leave instead of a 3 month leave. Most of these have also been offering other facilities such as flexi work options, work-from-home options, creche and fewer responsibilities to support their women employees through their motherhood.
While it is up to you whether or not to extend the maternity leave for women employees or even open up a crÃ¨che, one thing you can definitely do is give them the provision of working from home. You will be amazed at the kind of productivity you can achieve through this. All you need to do is use the help of technology. Here are a few steps you can take in this regard
- Arrange for a mobile phone and a laptop with a wireless internet connection that will help you be in touch with them at all times.
- You can consider the following virtual team-working options too:
- Telephone conference calling
- Video Conferencing
- Instant Messaging
- Connecting to an intranet or extranet or even a virtual private network that is absolutely secure
- Electronic diaries and emails to arrange meetings and also transfer documents
- Install firewall and anti-virus software programs on their PCs and password protect them. Make sure they understand your IT policies and follow their information security responsibilities.
Here are a few things employees should follow to make sure they donâ€™t compromise the security of your data in any way:
- Securing their premises at home so that their equipment is kept safe
- Being very careful about not leaving any of their equipment unattended while traveling
- Not using public computers for office work
- Not doing office work at public places such as airports, railway stations, flights or trains, where information can be seen by others.
- Destroying data which is not required by using a cross-cut shredder
India has grown up to becoming one of the 16 countries that offer the longest paid leave to new mothers. In today’s world where women have started outperforming their counterparts at their jobs, it is high time we changed our perspective towards new mothers by cutting them some slack during those initial months of motherhood.