The Ministry of Women and Child Development under Maneka Gandhi wants to ensure that organisations provide a day-care facility for female employees, enabling them to get back to work without compromising their newborns and young ones. A noble cause, given that inadequate maternity leaves and the lack of reliable day-care facilities force new mothers to drop out of their jobs and career goals.
The Ministry has already extended maternity leaves to eight months in government jobs and is trying to implement the same in the private sector as well. The day-care idea sounds excellent but is that enough?
As much as the proposition looks poster perfect in favour of women empowerment and intentions of the WCD Ministry being noble, is this a feasible proposition?
What’s in it for the organisations who are expected to invest in a day-care? Why shouldn’t they subtly trim their women force and hire males instead to excuse out of this added investment? Wouldn’t this give rise to further regression and discrimination? Is this solution practical?
Another issue that organisations would debate upon eventually is that, a day-care within the premises might bring distractions for women between work hours. It might prompt them to vacate their work stations at regular intervals to spend time with their little ones. The kids also might seek their mothers at weirdly inconvenient moments, knowing that they can hop in if an alarm is raised.
Equally important would be to chalk out the behavioural equations when children of staff members across hierarchies are expected to receive the same treatment without any discrimination based on the status of their parents. Would day-cares be able to accommodate toddlers of the CEO and a fourth class employee in the same facility? Would it really be possible for day-care attendants to keep discrimination at bay, not subjecting the children to it at as tender an age as that?
The purpose of this article is not to criticise a well-intended measure being proposed. Rather, it means to point out the impending issues that might come along with it, and possibly bring the initiative to its failure.
Planning needs to be full-proof, especially where kids are involved. The question is, how can organisations be motivated to opt for day-cares and yet eliminate, right from the beginning, the ill-practices they might bring?
Instead of imposing the idea, Maneka Gandhi should probably consider offering incentives to organisations in favour of providing such essential facilities.
Maybe compensations can be given in terms of writing off a chunk of the corporate tax payable by a company, to reward it for offering a day-care.
When a day-care is a part of the organisation, rules and regulations pertaining to it can be incorporated into the overall work culture. Also, the trust and confidence that women need to resume work post delivery is renewed. The discipline and hygiene of a day-care would also positively affect lives. But to ensure that work is not reversely affected, there must be specific guidelines laid out for employees. HR departments will need to give this initiative their very best.
The biggest hurdle that HR departments will face would probably be dealing with prejudices that might hamper free-mingling among children, ignoring the hierarchies their parents abide by at work.
The biggest challenge here is that despite the gamut of designations, employees will need to treat each other equally at least as parents.
This is only achievable with highly evolved community building programmes. So good luck to us!
While the day-care idea fits excellently into the scheme of post-baby commitments for a working mother, it has to come with solutions that don’t pose bigger problems in the days to come. Neither office, nor home should suffer. Hence a host of collateral issues will have to be dealt with and taken care of simultaneously.
Hope the WCDM is listening!