Return of the working mom

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Piyush Mehta

Chief Human Resources Officer

August 1, 2016 - Bringing women employees back to work after maternity is gaining rapid momentum across the world. We can't afford this colossal waste of promising talent. The onus here is on us: we need to build the right systems and processes for making this transition effortless. A one-size-fits-all policy is not the solution, given our spread across the globe. Naturally, our benefits are all very different, driven by regional nuances and governed by local jurisdiction. We are taking tiny measured steps – and a few long strides, too – to match those of our women who are coming back with a spring in their steps. And that's why I'm so proud of our 'Returning Moms' program.

The good news: Maternity is natural, and it's wonderful! Yet when women break the news, they speak about it with fear and apprehension. 'What happens to my role? My promotion? My career?' The 'Returning Moms' program – that we are piloting in India – anticipates all of these and eliminates any such concerns immediately. We let women know that they have options – and the company's support.

Baby steps: For our workplaces in India, we already have on-site and off-site crèche facilities, stork parking and flexi-hours. Now we have a sustainable solution as we welcome women back to the workforce – shift timings or the nearest location of the employee's choice. This is actually a big promise to make in a company like ours, which functions in a 24/7 environment. It's early days yet but each baby step we take is an achievement for us. We've always prided ourselves on helping our employees achieve work-life balance, and we are determined to help women achieve this at key life stages.

Work and live well: Building a family does not mean one can't give 100% at work. This isn't a debate on what's more important, but I know (and every woman in the company will agree!) that work is no less a priority. But understanding specific needs and working around them is necessary – and that's what this program is all about. That's why we're all for flexi-options, which allow each woman to work out her own unique solution, with a little help from us.

Start-to-finish support: Help is at hand, and this is a systematic and well thought-through process. We will be in constant contact – right from the moment a woman announces her pregnancy till she returns to work. Even then, there is a period of re-integration that will affect different women differently but we will make all of this happen seamlessly.

A dedicated team is constantly innovating on new ways to make this program work. And the first signs of success have already begun to flow in. One of our Assistant Managers, Arna Chatterjee, says, “Returning to work after a long break of six months after my maternity leave was quite a task, but with the full support of my leaders and the HR team, I got my desired role within a short span of time. This is truly a NEW BEGINNING!"

Returning Moms is a great hit in India – 89% women have been deployed and there hasn't been a single exit in the first quarter of 2016. But that's not all; there's some action in the US as well! In the ongoing endeavor to make life easier for returning moms across our organization, we reviewed maternity policies across the world. And the pendulum swings quite far – in India, women get 84 days of mat leave while policies in Hungary provide for 3 years. In the US, legally mandated benefits were the least and demanded urgent attention. That led us to increase parental leave for all US employees to 6 weeks. In conjunction with Short Term Disability leave, birth mothers can now avail of as many as 12-14 weeks of leave.

Things are not going to be easy. We're talking about hundreds of returning moms every year and there might be hiccups. But will those deter us or make us any less committed to retaining our women? Not a chance! We will do everything we can to hold on to them and make sure they succeed. And I believe the 'Returning Moms' program is going to do just that!