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When it comes to global maternity & paternity leaves report card, India suffers a terrible reputation!

If you are a woman, and you are expecting a child, be prepared for challenging times. In majority of cases, women who return to work from maternity leaves, find it difficult to re-adjust. For example, you will be at a disadvantage during appraisal after your return from maternity leave. You will be ranked lower than your colleagues even if your output during the months prior to the maternity leave was better. This is an unfair assessment, putting would-be mothers in a very tough situation.

More and more companies are realising this discriminatory policy and are taking steps to make suitable changes.

Microsoft has announced an expanded parental leave policy for its US-based employees. The day after, a similar move was taken by the monster television company, Netflix.

Accenture has increased the maternity-leave benefits for its full-time and part-time women employees in India to 22 weeks of paid leave, up significantly from the current statutory requirement of 12 weeks.

Flipkart is also making the workplace more attractive for women by offering an extended maternity leave of 24 weeks, plus four months of flexi-working hours with full pay.

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Citibank is offering women employees in India a childcare allowance up to Rs 1.32 lakh a year, in addition to their salaries, for spending on day care services of their choice.

There is a paradigm shift as far as women are concerned, but including men in the childcare scheme of things would be the true test of character for companies operating in India. These days, even fathers apply for paternity leaves. It is no longer the sole duty of a mother to nurture and raise a child; fathers are contributing more than ever before. From changing diapers in the middle of the night, to feeding, men are accepting the role of fatherhood without any resistance.

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My brother, working in a reputed company, was blessed with a baby girl recently. Unfortunately, he could not balance his new life and the professional one. The demands at work and home became too much for him and the leave granted to him was not enough to support his wife. He had no option but to resign.

Expecting out of India?

The US is the only developed country that doesn’t guarantee paid maternity or parental leave to workers.

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Compared to other rich nations in the OECD group, America’s status is bleak: the UK guarantees 39 weeks of paid leave for mothers, two of which are mandatory. Australia offers 18 weeks. And Mexico gives mothers 12 weeks of paid leave.

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India has begun to move in the right direction, but the pace is too slow, and it is not all-inclusive. Men need to be given equal significance.

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