Setting a ‘New Benchmark’ for India’s Working Women

Setting a ‘New Benchmark’ for India’s Working Women

India, like other fast-growing economies in the developing world, stands to gain tremendously from gender equality in the workplace: A McKinsey study issued late last year found that if India advanced towards parity at the rate of its fastest-improving neighbor, it could add $700 billion to its GDP by 2025. With such a tremendous opportunity at hand, India’s government has taken an interest in bringing women into the workforce and keeping them there, floating an expansion of its mandatory maternity leave law at the end of last year. Indian workers are also increasingly interested in flexible working arrangements, which also stands to benefit working mothers in particular, provided employers respond to the rising demand.

Well, some of them are. Tata Sons, the Mumbai-based holding company of the massive Tata Group, is introducing a slew of new policies designed to support women employees who become mothers or caregivers, Saumya Bhattacharya reports at the Economic Times, which “could set a new benchmark in India, and match some of the best policies across the world”:

Tata Sons has tailored interventions at various life stages of women — child birth, early childhood care, flexible working, care for elderly and child, as part of Tata LEAD – under the Group Diversity and Inclusion initiative that was launched by chairman Cyrus P Mistry in March 2014. “Our intent is to show that we care through a deep organisational commitment towards our woman employees. Maternity, for example, has been a key focus area. By offering seven months leave followed by postmaternity support of 18 months, we are providing a viable option to mothers to be at home during the critical early childhood,” said NS Rajan, the group chief human resources officer at Tata Sons who spearheads the Group Diversity Council.

Starting this month, woman employees at Tata Sons can avail of the seven-month maternity leave with full pay. The leave can be taken from two months prior to child birth. For early childhood care after completing the maternity leave, women can work from home with reduced hours for 18 months. During this period, they will get half pay for half working day. Those who want to work full time during this period can shift to a flexi-work arrangement. Beyond maternity and early childhood care as well, women ha ve the option to flexi-work — they can work from home for up to two days a week, and opt for flexible work hours.

Bhattacharya notes that “policies at the Tata Group companies are traditionally shaped by the initiatives at Tata Sons,” meaning that these policies may end up being copied across one of India’s largest conglomerates, affecting a total workforce of 600,000 people.