Child support for working parents is no child’s play

Child support for working parents is no child's play

The source of a working mother’s dilemma is the choice that she’s often forced to make between her child and her work. Both are dear to her and its painful to make a choice when she’s pushed to a corner. Not to forget that she’s judged severely, whatever she picks. 

As more and more women get educated and become career oriented, woman workforce is becoming a force to reckon with. HR departments can no longer ignore them or turn their back on women specific problems. They necessarily have to reinvent their packages and perks to become gender inclusive.

Ministry of Labour and Employment is in the process of making it compulsory for companies to provide creche facility to their employees, if they have more than 50 employees or more than 30 women employees. Either have an in house creche or have a tie up with one that is within 500 metres of work place. Sounds perfect BUT……yes there is a but. “Cost/ expenditure on this account is to be borne by the employer,” says the ministry. This effectively means that the government has put the burden squarely on the shoulders of the companies rather than sharing it. A lot of organisations are already hesitant in hiring women even though they may not say this openly. Now this add on mandate will make women pariah for the hiring process. Of course, one way is to redo the packages allocate a certain amount under the child care head but that is just a stop gap arrangement. Women employability will take a major hit nonetheless.

Countries around the world are taking cognizance of this problem and coming up with women and child friendly policies. Norway for example has a very inclusive and well thought of programme when it comes to child care benefits. I’ll mention the salient features:

· A 59 week ‘parental leave’ out of which 3 weeks have to be availed before the expected date of delivery (Ante natal)

· If it’s a twin pregnancy, add another 5 weeks to that.

· 10 weeks of this leave has to be necessarily availed by the father with the rest to be split as they find convenient. (a subtle hint that a child is a shared responsibility for both the parents)

· This leave entitles the parents to 80% of their salary. They have a choice of decreasing this leave to 40 weeks at 100% the salary.

· Once this parental leave ends, the parents have a choice to extend the leave, work at flexible hours and accordingly financial provisions are made.

· Once the parents resume and the child needs to be looked, there are state run day care facilities. All one needs is to apply and give a location preference (home/work area). The charges are reasonable and the parents are assured about the child’s safety and hygiene.

· The same goes for schools as well. Depending upon the geographical preference the child gets admission to a government run school.

If you are still reading this, I can imagine your reaction of awe with a hint of envy. Of course, the naysayers will nod their head and as always use population and poverty as an excuse of how this cannot be replicated in India. The trouble is that Indian parents cannot even expect a fraction of these benefits. The lack of political and administrative will is appalling. And the maternity benefits that government is trying to push on to the employers just make it tougher for the girls. For a profit-making organisation, a woman employee will obviously be a liability. May be the government can offer incentives to organisations that have child and parent friendly policies.

First it was the women’s reservation move that fell short of its goal and is famously prone to misuse and disuse. It has created barriers rather than dissolving them. The whole point of encouraging girls is lost if they end up being seen as a financial burden from the time they are out scouring for jobs. This will leave them high and dry and at some point, they will question the futility of education. Before all that good work is undone, government and hiring agencies need to relook at their policies.

First published –

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