For new mothers, taking care of the baby is a full-time job. Add your work to the mix—and the need for a crèche becomes more important than ever
Today, it’s nothing short of inspirational to see new mothers head back to office or work shortly after giving birth. However, there’s one huge obstacle that stands in their way, one that’s not related to work but home.
No, we are not talking about household chores and responsibilities. This pertains to a more important task—that of taking care of the baby. Especially when both mother and father are working full time. With families increasingly becoming nuclear nowadays, leaving the little one in the care of the grandparents like in the olden days is not always an option.
This is where the crèche or childcare facilities plays a vital role, and steps in to take care of the baby in the absence of the parents.
So, what is a crèche? The National Crèche Scheme, under the Ministry of Women and Child Development, has defined a crèche as “a facility which enables parents to leave their children when they are at work and where children are provided stimulating environment for their holistic development. Crèches are designed to provide group care to children, usually up to 6 years of age, who need care, guidance and supervision away from their home during the day.”
A 2014 study, published in the Journal of Managerial Psychology, showed that in organizations that had on-site child-care facilities, employee absenteeism was low. And in India, there are very few companies that offer crèche and other child-care options.
Debolina Ghosh, an HR professional with HSBC, says that today when a large number of working new mothers make up the workforce, an on-site crèche is the need of the hour. According to her, HSBC is on the right path.
“HSBC was among the first to introduce the concept of crèches for new mothers, and we are happy that this move has been welcomed with open arms by the employees. As we plan to gradually transition to a hybrid way of working, we believe it’s essential for an employee to access a suite or resources (read crèche facilities) on our platform,” says Ms Ghosh.
With offices slowly resuming across the country and mothers having to go back to work, some serious questions arise in the mind of a new mother:
Archita Shashikanth, who works at a subtitling company in Bengaluru, is among those interested in the last question, as currently, in her office, no such facilities exist.“Shortly after giving birth, I resumed work, but was unable to focus fully, as my mind would invariably wander back to my baby at home. My parents live in Hyderabad, but asking them to be at home all the time to look after the baby was not feasible, as they have a business to look after. It would’ve been wonderful had my office had a crèche facility, but unfortunately it doesn’t, and although I’ve put forth my grievances to the HR department, I don’t think there will be a fruitful solution to this. It’s going to be one difficult journey, I suppose,” she says
And to think there could be so many others like her, worrying about child care.
Before understanding the crèche guidelines, let’s look at the provisions of the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act, 2017, which is applicable to all establishments employing 10 or more than 10 people. This Act provides for paid maternity leave of 26 weeks to women workers. Moreover, the Act makes it compulsory for every establishment with 50 employees or more to have in-house crèche facilities, and allows women employees to visit the crèche up to four times a day.
Hush! Baby at Work: National Guidelines for Setting up Crèches
The central government prepared guidelines for crèches and made them public in March 2018, recommending that a crèche be at the workplace, or within 500 meters of the workplace or the employee’s neighborhood. Crèches can be used by children aged 6 months to 6 years, and the number of children enrolled in a crèche can be up to 30.
Additionally, a crèche should follow these norms:
(Source: Ministry of Women and Child Development)
Despite the benefits of a workplace crèche, many establishments are yet to set up on-site crèches, as only a few states have notified the rules on crèche under the Maternity Benefit Act, 2017. All states must frame rules and enforce them in letter and spirit so that working mothers across the country can have access to safe, innovative and convenient child-care facilities to raise their children.
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