Make it Compulsory for Companies to Offer Creche Facility to Women Employees #BringHerBack

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My own story is the story of lakhs of working women in India. 

I had to take a sabbatical after the delivery of my child as I had no support to take care of my son at home. I almost lost my career in the domain in which I was working. However, I bounced back and started my career in a different domain from scratch. Having lost it all, it was not at all easy to start afresh in a domain that was new to me. Though I did manage to do well in my new career later, because of the sabbatical I lost the advantage of my experience in my earlier field of work that I had earned over the years.

I humbly request each one of you to sign this petition and ask for a probe from the government into the actual implementation of the much talked about 'Maternity Benefit Act'. We want the government to

  • Start a nationwide probe to see how effectively the Act is being implemented and why we are still being denied our 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. 

While transitioning to my new career, I looked around and connected with other working women and 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 have daycare centres within office premises. 

One of my friends was expelled from her office on the pretext of lower performance when she rejoined after her sabbatical. The main reason is that they consider mothers to be non-productive employees. Corporates tend to throw out women who wish to come back to work after maternity and label them as underperformers. 

As a step to empower women, The Maternity (Amendment) Bill 2017 was passed on March 27, 2017. It was an amendment to the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961.

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). The government has confirmed that employers need to bear the complete cost of compliance and providing childcare support to its employees.

The other important inclusions in 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. Still, a lot of companies are denying this to women employees.

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. Though this depends on the nature of the work, when maternity leaves are being denied, work from home option is a far-fetched dream.

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.

I 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 companies were shamelessly denying all other benefits stated in the maternity benefit act.

In a country where men share very little housework, many Indian women are too occupied with household duties to also take on a job and are unable to earn money when the demands of raising children fall squarely on their shoulders. The percentage of participation of women in the labour force in India is one of the lowest in the world. 

It is quite evident that these women empowerment acts are largely paperwork with negligible implementation and nobody really cares if they are bringing any change or not. 

Let's not allow this to happen anymore. This is the time to raise our voice to include women in the mainstream workforce too. Please sign this petition and share it as much as possible and help me fight to #BringHerBack.