Indian Tech Companies Use Paternity Leave to Lure in Talent, But Churn-Up Controversy
Tech companies in India have been increasingly offering paternity leave in a move to match European and Nordic country standards of employee care.
Following a controversial bill in India signed by the Parliament last year to extend maternity leave from 12 weeks to 26 weeks in 2016, companies started looking into extending leaves to fathers as well.
Cummins India led the movement by extending its paternity leave to one month. Following the movement were tech giants like Microsoft, who increased its paternity leave to six weeks, and Salesforce responded to the movement by extending leave to a record-shattering three months.
The bill and the new paternity leave policies faced some unexpected negative feedback from the Minister of Woman & Child development, Maneka Gandhi, who expressed concerns that the increased maternity leave and the paternity leave would end up being a setback to equality in the workplace.
Gandhi pointed out that the extended maternity leave reinforced gender roles, by placing too much emphasis on women as the sole caretakers of children. Maneka also expressed her concern that companies will favor hiring men to avoid having to potentially pay for a 26 week-long leave if their female employees become pregnant.
She also expressed concern towards the new paternity leave speaking to the Indian Express. “Paternity leave can be considered only if, once the woman goes back to work after her 26 weeks of leave, we find that men are availing their sick leave for a month to take care of the child. Let me see how many men do that. I will be happy to give it but for a man, it will be just a holiday, he won’t do anything.”
Gandhi went on to suggest that Indian men are not interested in contributing to the upbringing of their children, saying, “Such a legislation will have little impact in India, where men do not even avail their existing leave entitlements to share the responsibility of child care”.
She has consequently denied her ‘holiday’ statement, but the sentiment she expressed was echoed in other skeptics of the new paternity offerings.
Unfortunately in India, gender biased legislation is still a reality harming both genders; a good example of which is the story of Aditya Tiwari who spent ages between the corners of a law that will barely allow a single man to adopt a child.
Meanwhile, many foreign companies believe that paternity leave is a step in the right direction towards shared parental responsibility and hope to lay the groundwork to encouraging parental participation.
The Deutsche Bank for example, offers whichever gender parent, six months off to be primary caregiver. “The new parental leave policy centers on the caregiver’s responsibility, rather than tie parental leave to gender, and replaces what was previously called maternity or paternity leave,” the company spokesperson in India told Quartz.
As more companies adopt gender conscious maternity and paternity leave policies, champions for female advancement in India like Minister Gandhi will hopefully see their fears assuaged.