How Asian Paints envisioned a nurturing environment for expectant mothers long before others caught up
She was carrying twins but instead of double blessings, she faced double heartache as she lost them in the 8th month of her pregnancy. While her colleagues were sympathetic, the company as an entity had conventional policies which didn’t seem to provide comfort. After much internal conflict, she took 12 days off to recuperate and to stop being haunted by the ghost of what had happened. While she was in a quandary about taking time off to heal, her brain screamed she couldn’t, because, quite simply, even though the organisation saw women as competent people, talent powerhouses and worthy managers, it didn’t provide the required support to women, in their roles as mothers. This was a story of the past Indian Corporate World!
Thankfully today there is talk around extended maternity break of 26 weeks and liberating policies to support the delicate and beautiful phase of maternity and transition back into work. A company is composed of elements from society – its people, beliefs, culture and ultimately, many of its policies reflect philosophy of how it cares for people. Motherhood is one of the most momentous, joyous and a life turning phase for a woman. Hence, for women, the transition to being a mother is big, to say the least. The Maternity Benefit Act 1961, before the latest amendment, gave women 12 weeks’ leave in all with not much consideration of many other challenges a corporate woman experiences during this phase of her life. However, some companies decided to lead the future and provide a more progressive policy being sensitive to needs of women employees. One of those companies was Asian Paints and this was in 2012.
Asian Paints not only provided 24 weeks of Maternity Leave since 2012, an age before the sentiment of a longer maternity break took shape, but also Extended Maternity Leave and Child Care Leave. While extended maternity leave is in addition to all the leaves already present, Child Care Leave of 1 year provides the safety net in the event of exhaustion of all types of leaves. Over and above this, there is a sensitivity that needs to come into play in the event of a difficult pregnancy or complications post birth. On a case-to-case basis, Asian Paints has also given the flexibility to mothers to work from home keeping in mind their medical needs. Paternity Leave, Adoption Leave and Sabbatical Leave are other policies that Asian Paints introduced keeping work life integration as a growing need of the diverse workforce.
Asian Paints has two in-house Creche facilities to support employees in managing demands of parenting. While employees toil in the workplace, their toddlers can toil in the crèches a mere stone’s throw away from the workplace, doing the challenging stuff of childhood – trying to figure out what the alphabet is or how to draw butterflies.
Recently, Asian Paints has launched a Conversation Guide for ‘Mother-in-you’ to support women employees through this life stage and aims to guide them to enjoy motherhood to the fullest as well as have a vibrant career. Another Conversation Guide ‘Supporting Parenthood’ is meant for the reporting manager who has a mother-to-be or a new mother in the team. It addresses & provides tips to effectively manage the dilemmas that are experienced by a supervisor in his/her interaction with a mother-to-be or a new mother.
These stages for women employees come with career breaking challenges and it just requires an ecosystem which supports balancing of these needs. Once it sails, organizations get rewarded with engaged and committed talent. It’s true that words have no meaning unless they are infused with heart. And, when you have a company that intuitively responds to the needs of employees, you know you’re in (a) good company. Like it has before, may the winds of change keep blowing strong into the recesses of Asian Paints, giving people the dignity to live wholesome and fulfilling lives.
Feb 06 2017, 6:42 PM
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