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Last Updated : May 25, 2019 06:20 PM IST | Source: Moneycontrol.com

Is a 26-week paternity leave feasible in India?

Companies including alcoholic beverage maker Diageo are proposing a 26-week paternity leave

M Saraswathy @maamitalks

Alcoholic beverage maker Diageo announced a new family leave policy for employees across its business. The company will offer 26 weeks of maternity leave and 4 weeks of paternity leave. However, the interesting aspect was that a significant number of Diageo's businesses will move to 26 weeks fully paid paternity leave.

In India, it is a known fact that companies are wary of offering an extended leave for childbirth. Earlier, the law allowed three months or 12 weeks of maternity leave which has now been extended to 26 weeks.

A long absence from work brings its own set of challenges. While maternity and childbirth are considered life events, not all companies have a positive attitude. Women rejoining after a break often are made to join at a junior position or dropped from crucial projects.

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In fact, some companies went to the other extreme to say that they would take a conscious decision to hire a lesser number of women so that they are not required to deal with 'absenteeism' in the workplace.

Diageo has said that markets like North America, Thailand, Philippines, Singapore, Spain, Netherlands, Ireland, Italy, Russia, Colombia, Venezuela, and Australia amongst others will move into 26 weeks leave.

Considering a scenario in India where husband and wife work at the same organisation, it would be a challenge to give maternity as well as paternity leave of 26 weeks each. Similarly, if more than one couple is expecting a child, finding alternate resources during the maternity/paternity leave would be the first priority for the corporate.

Some organisations in the aviation, legal and entertainment industry make female employees sign declarations stating that they will not get pregnant. This is primarily to ensure minimum disruption in business. With a longer paternity leave offer, male employees could also be asked to sign similar bonds.

A more drastic turn of events would be if a few companies restrict the hiring based on age. Startups and SME ventures have intense cost pressures and they are the ones that could take a tough hiring decision.

While the idea behind a paternity leave is noble and seeks to bring across the concept of raising a family together, a 26 weeks paternity may not be a sustainable idea in India yet.

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First Published on May 25, 2019 11:07 am
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