by Saheli Sen Gupta

Do Indian tech companies really care about maternity?

Sep 24, 2015

While Flipkart, Intel and Infosys recently upgraded their maternity leave policies, is the tech industry really taking concrete steps to make jobs easier for women?u00a0

Now that 35 percent of the Indian IT industry’s workforce is female, companies in India are discussing policies related to motherhood. Even the Indian government wants to change its maternity law. Pre-natal and post-natal leaves, paternity leave, considerably lenient work policies for new mothers, and child care are some of the benefits IT companies are now expected to keep in mind for their employees.

The Anita Borg Institute, a social enterprise which grew out of the digital community for women was formed by computer scientist Anita Borg in 1987. It strives to increase the impact of women on all aspects of technology. “Organizations need to have conducive maternity policies that take care of pre and post natal needs, if they are really serious about advancing the careers of women in technology. They also need to have paternity policies to support the responsibilities that come with being parents for both men and women. It is encouraging to see the improvements and generous steps organizations are now taking in this direction,” says Geetha Kannan, the organization’s managing director in India.

So how are the organizations faring? Out of the 14 top IT companies in the country we approached, only six responded with the details of their maternity policies. While Infosys, Virtusa and Mindtree offer the standard paid leave of 12 weeks as stipulated by the Indian Maternity Benefits Act, 1961, others have ‘upped their ante’.

Leading the path is Accenture which introduced a new maternity leave policy in May, 2015 increasing the duration of its paid maternity leave from the standard 12 weeks to 22 weeks. An additional three months of unpaid leave on request can also be availed by new mothers.

SAP changed its policies in 2014 and now offers a paid maternity leave of 20 weeks. In addition, Infosys, SAP and Accenture grant one more month of paid leave if any illness or complication arises during and/or after the pregnancy.

Virtusa provides three additional months of leave if the situation demands whereas Mindtree employees also have the option of extending their leave. The company also provides new mothers a stay at home option for six months before and after delivery under special circumstances.

HCL Technologies, while offering a paid maternity leave up to six months, may allot some amount of work to the mothers, although at a reduced hour basis.

But motherhood is so much more than just maternity leave, like infant care policies, crèche’s and flexible leave policies for new mothers during emergencies. Are these companies looking at it?

Infosys has several maternity benefits including child day care centers, doctors on campus as well proactive health and wellness initiatives for mothers. “Sabbatical leave of one year is also offered for childcare,” said Richard Lobo, SVP and Head HR, Infosys.

Vibha Shukla, director and head-Human Resource at SAP India said, “We want our women employees to see their positions at SAP as anything but a hindrance in their role as a mother.” True to its word, in addition to the generous leave policies, SAP’s new mothers can also opt to work only 50 percent of their capacity for a proportional pay or choose part-time work or just work from home.

Other companies are also stepping up their game with flexible hours, work from home, installing crèches and other benefits for new mothers to reduce attrition and to promote the inclusion of women into the IT industry. Mindtree, which refers to its employees as Mindtree Minds, has an in-house day care facility, Little Critters, and also has baby’s day facilities, a special room that enables mothers to work and keep a watchful eye on her child at the same time.

SAP’s attrition among women who take maternity leave has reduced from 31 percent in 2010 to a meagre three percent in 2014. The company also has a global mandate to ensure 25 percent women participation in senior management by 2017. SAPlings, a ‘state of the art’ childcare center inside the company’s Bangalore office provides care to children in the age group of nine months to six years and is currently used by 140 employees. The center provides Montessori education in addition to the standard care of infants and toddlers.

While Accenture and Virtusa don’t have their own day care centers but have childcare support programs and tie ups with several centers around their offices. HCL Technologies goes a step ahead and has both an in-house center as well as external tie ups with other day care centers. It also has a Stepping Stone programme for Motherhood. “A life coach support is offered for women who are new mothers and require help to manage the new expectations at work and home,” said Srimathi Shivashankar, AVP of Diversity & Sustainability at HCL.

But motherhood comes in many forms than just giving birth to a child. Adoption in India is also on a rise, according to Central Adoption Resource Authority and IT companies are taking it in their stride. While Infosys has a standard paid leave of 30 days in all cases of adoption, SAP provides 12 weeks of paid leave if the child is less than nine months old, four weeks if the child is more than nine months but less than 24 months old and two weeks if the child is more than 24 months old. It also grants employees opting for adoption the option of taking an additional 24 weeks off without pay or work at 50 percent capacity at a reduced pay.

Surprisingly Flipkart, despite having changed their maternity policies very recently, did not respond to our queries in spite of being approached multiple times. Cognizant, Microsoft, TCS, Mphasis, Wipro, Juniper and Amazon also failed to respond after receiving the questions, Cognizant citing this being against their company’s policy.

However, the Indian tech industry is not really a pioneer when it comes to maternity policies and benefits. Indian Banks’ Association has been providing six months of maternity leave since 1966 and a leave of two months in case of adoption. With even the Indian government looking to modifying their maternity policies and increasing duration of maternity leave, isn’t it high time Indian tech companies also think towards a more mother friendly environment at work?