Thursday, August 18, 2016

Office: Office – Maternity mindset

(Image courtesy )

The Government of India recently passed the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Bill, 2016. The Labour Ministry says the Bill is intended to encourage women to join back work as the number of women dropping out of the workforce is on a rise. This is like saying I will deposit Rs 10,000 in your bank account by extorting the bank because you are poor. But you won’t be given a debit card or an online transaction facility. That, depends on your relationship with the bank. If the bank is benevolent, it will let you withdraw all the money at one go.

The Women and Child Ministry has said women are ‘very stressed’ post the delivery of a child (really? More stressed than managing a man child husband and ever-so-juvenile in laws? You have got to be kidding). Senior women leaders, beyond their prime child bearing age, are wistful about missing the extended maternity leave bus by a decade. After all, it’s hard to say ‘Good for you’ to the pretty young things you privately envy at work. Grandmas are scoffing, as usual - ‘hmpf! We managed everything with nothing. The shenanigans of these modern women. Trust the men also to give in!’ The men, of course are experiencing myriad feelings – anger, jealously, satisfaction, helplessness, hurt.

And what of the corporate honchos who are to honor this Bill by implementing it at the aam employee level?

The HR team (in private): This is great! Now we will all get promoted because we have successfully implemented a good employee engagement practice. All we need to do is just send an email once the lady delivers the baby and one a few days before she is due to return. In any case she will be too busy with the baby to respond.

The Finance team (in private): How much more money will we write off? What is the certainty these ladies will even come back? What? 12 of them are due for promotion! We can’t afford to pay a hike for someone who has been productive only for 6 months in a year.

Project Management Team (in private): This is a great opportunity to blame the woman for the shoddy work the rest of the team has done for this client. You know hormones and all during pregnancy. Better than admitting the team got piss drunk during the long weekend and forgot the deliverable. We will adjust the hours billed. Should we charge a higher rate for the pregnant candidate? After all she is working under extra ordinary physical conditions and we have had to cope with that at our end. You know, having anti-slip mats in the bathroom and Bisleri water and granola bars in the cafeteria.

The Sales team (in private):  Who is pregnant? As long as it’s not in my territory I am safe. Guys, are any of your pregnant?

The CIO organization (in private): Seize the computers of these ladies before they go on leave. We can format the data and hand them over to those who are exiting the company. This way we meet the dual goals of data security as well as laptop utilization. In any case we don’t want baby drool all over the key board. We haven’t paid the vendor bills and he has cut out ‘service and repairs’ from the laptops contract.

The CEO organization (in private): How should we milk this opportunity? The CEO needs to be seen as the man who made it all happen. Of course, he knows nothing about kids or maternity, having left those insignificant duties to the wife. Maybe he can have a coffee with all the pregnant ladies for 20 mins and end with a group photo? His paunch won’t be visible that way. His speech has to be solid though. We need to draft a 40 slide PPT to help him get by. The more baby pictures, the better.

The marketing team (in private): Let us do something different folks. No point towing the HR line. Let us make this client focused and run a campaign called ‘Are you sensitive to pregnancy?’. The client can share instances of how they have made their offices and working practices conducive to pregnant ladies and mothers. And because we should show people how occupied we are, we should also design 5 standard pregnancy templates – Word document, PPT, E-signature, e-Card and Email – titled ‘Proud mom / mom-to-be.’

Junior management folks (in private): This is wonderful. I think my spouse and I will also try for a child soon to avail this policy. Arey! Don’t we invest in LIC schemes just because they are tax exempt? My father told me never to miss any government scheme. I haven’t even taken my name off the gas subsidy. This is like a bonus – no work, only pay.

All teams in public: This is a very progressive move by the government and our company welcomes it with open arms.

Tailpiece: For a serious discussion on this Act, you may read my LinkedIn piece.