A new law took effect in India on Wednesday, extending paid maternity leave for working mothers in the country to six months — more than double the leave mothers had previously been afforded. The move is part of a broader initiative by the government to encourage women to enter the workforce in a country where less than 30 percent of all women are employed. Under the new policy, Indian mothers would get more time off than mothers in the U.S., Japan or France. But according to recruitment experts, the new policy could end up discouraging businesses from hiring women — particularly in India’s booming startup sector.
Subramanyam Sreenivasaiah, a CEO at consulting firm Ascent HR, told CNN that the country would “probably see a further decline in women being hired.” Noting that employers would have to take on all the costs of the extended maternity leave without help from the government, Sreenivasaiah argued that the cost of training and hiring temporary workers to fill in for mothers on leave — as well as government requirements that companies with more than 50 employees set up day care services for working mothers — would make it cost inefficient for any but the biggest companies to hire more women.
In the male-dominated start-up sector, the effect could be even more pronounced. According to a survey of 4,300 startups by LocalCircles, an Indian social networking service, 26 percent preferred to hire male employees and 40 percent said they only hired women if they were worth “the cost.” According to 35 percent of those surveyed, the new maternity requirements were expected to hurt their profitability.
Experts have also noted that the law would do nothing for 150 million women who work temporary, casual, or self-employed jobs. For some, such as Sudha Ishara, a tutor who teaches nearly two-dozen students out of her home while also caring for her child, maternity leave can prove an unaffordable luxury. After the birth of her son, Ishara said she was forced to quit her previous job teaching at a school because she couldn’t afford to take the unpaid maternity leave.
R.S. Maker, director general of the Employers’ Federation of India, has dismissed criticism of the legislation, citing the bill as good for the country and for women.
“This is a beneficial legislation which is good for female employees and the corporate sector,” he said. “The industry has accepted that maternity benefits are here to stay.”
Read the full story at CNN.