FIINOVATION REVIEWS – THE NEW MATERNITY BENEFIT BILL

The Government gifts the Amended Maternity Bill as the Woman’s Day gift for the working women in India as the Parliament approves the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Bill, 2016. The Bill was introduced in Rajya Sabha on August 11, 2016 by the Minister of Labour and Employment, Mr. Bandaru Dattatreya and passed on 9th March, 2017.

“This is my humble gift to women, a day after the world celebrated International Women’s Day,” he said after about a four-hour debate in the Lok Sabha. He also informed that while finalising the Bill, few amendments were made in the old law to ensure that pregnant women derive maximum benefit from the law.

Fiinovation applauds the move as India joins the league of small consortium of countries with progressive maternity leave policy in system for the working women. Now, India ranks third in terms of number of weeks allotted for maternity leave with Canada and Norway leading at 50 and 44 weeks respectively.

The Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 was introduced to protect the health and employment of working women during their maternity tenure. As per this Bill, the women employed in companies with minimum 10 employees were entitled to 12 weeks of paid maternity leave. However, the new bill has increased the tenure of paid maternity leave for first two children from 12 weeks to 26 weeks. However, for the third child it will be limited to 12 weeks. It also includes the 12 weeks paid leave provision for women legally adopting children under three months and mothers having children through surrogacy. In the later case, the 12-week period will commence from the date when the child is handed over to the mother. As per the Bill, every company employing 50 or more women employees is entitled to provide the creche facilities within a prescribed distance, allowing at least four visits to the creche during the day.

Other major amendments allows a woman to avail work from home opportunity after joining back from the maternity leave on mutually agreed terms between the employer and the woman. It mandates all the organisations to inform a woman about all the benefits included in the bill during the time of her appointment through both written and electronic medium.

Additionally, there are various other labour laws like the Employees’ State Insurance Act, 1948 which entitles the payment of wages to an insured woman, during her 12-week maternity leave. Even, the women employed in newspapers or working as journalists are entitled to similar maternity leave under the Working Journalists (Conditions of Service) and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1955. Further, women employed in the central government are provided about 24 weeks of paid maternity leave and additional child care leave up to a period of two years.

Although progressive and applauding but still it has left many important aspects untouched. Fiinovation reviews that this bill is entitled to benefit only 1.8 million women working in the organised sector as they constitute only 10% of the women workforce. It fails to include the women belonging to the weak and marginalised sections of the society as 90% of the women workforce is employed in the unorganised sector belong to the lower strata of the society. It includes women working as seasonal labourers working at construction and agricultural sites, contractual labours and domestic workers. The Bill lacks to cover them under its ambit as they lack eligibility under the 1961 Act such as continuous employment or a period of 80 days in the one year prior to the date of delivery. Hence, it portrays a huge disparity among the allotted benefits amongst the different sections of the society.

Experts also argue that the Bill could have an adverse impact on the job opportunities available for women. As it requires an employer to pay full wages during the maternity leave, many companies may consider it as a financial burden and prefer to hire male candidates on critical positions. Although, International Labour Organisation (ILO) Maternity Protection Conventions has proposed that the complete burden should not be borne by the organisations as suddenly the compensation period has increased from 12 to 26 weeks. It recommends compensating through public funds, insurance schemes, etc. Various countries like UK, Germany, Australia and Norway compensate by combining funds from the government and employer or national security fund.

A government official, who has been part of the debate in parliament argued that, “A father also has equal responsibility towards the child like a mother and paternity benefits would help a couple to raise their child together as majority are now nuclear families”. In fact, another government official from West Bengal shared saying that the government in its state is already providing the paternity leave of 30 days. Additionally, the benefits should extend to single father adopting children who are currently excluded from the Bill.

Fiinovation recommends that instead of introducing different bills and schemes, the government should introduce a uniform policy to benefit every employed woman rather parent in the country. Not only this, a strict monitoring mechanism should be implemented to ensure that women receive these benefits as currently only a handful of leading corporates in India have been strictly following these norms.

As quoted by in a report by Mckinsey Global Institute “Achieving gender equality in India would have a larger economic impact there than in any other region in the world – $700 billion of added GDP in 2025 – but comprehensive change is needed.” Fiinovation second with the though and feels that the New Maternity Bill is an important step towards the same and will certainly act as an impetus for women empowerment since they will be able to strike a healthy balance between personal and professional life.

By Manisha Bhatia

Media & Communications, Fiinovation

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FIINOVATION OBSERVES – WORLD SOCIAL JUSTICE DAY

World Social Justice Day is observed annually on 20th February for promoting efforts to tackle global issues such as poverty, unemployment, gender equality and exclusion to create an equitable society for all. It promotes social justice, solidarity, harmony & equality for marginalised communities, women and immigrants. The theme of World Justice Day in 2017 is “Preventing conflict and sustaining peace through decent work”. On this day many organisations including the United Nations and International Labour Organisation present plans and issue statements regarding the promotion of social justice. Additionally, campaign groups, trade unions and volunteers are also invited to mark their support on this day.

In 2007, the World Day of Social Justice was introduced in the UN agenda. It urged governments to focus on three important aspects;

a) reaffirmation of commitments made in Geneva Development Summit 1995,

b) recalling the commitment to promote national and global economic systems based on the principles of justice, equity, democracy participation, transparency, accountability and inclusion and

c) reaffirming the commitment made in the 2005 World Summit Outcome to full and productive employment and decent work for all, including for women and young people.

Keeping focus on these aspects will remove the barriers that people face because of their gender, age, race, ethnicity, religion, culture or disability.

Equality is the basic fundamental right of every society and in order to achieve the same, governments have created a framework for action to promote social justice at national, regional and international levels. The governments accept the fact that holistic economic growth can be achieved only by promoting equitable distribution of income, resources and providing everyone an equal opportunity for growth and development irrespective of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, culture or disability. They promote the belief that only social justice can help in achieving the peaceful coexistence within and among the nations.

United Nations also promotes social justice as part of their global mission to achieve equality for all. The recent adoption of the Declaration on Social Justice for a Fair Globalization by the International Labour Organisation is one example of the UN system’s commitment to social justice. The Declaration focuses on guaranteeing fair outcomes for all through employment, social protection, social dialogue, fundamental principles and rights at work.

Fiinovation through its association with corporations for CSR and Sustainability initiatives, have always promoted social justice. It believes that there are serious challenges in front of us, including financial crises, insecurity, poverty, exclusion and inequality within and among societies and considerable bottlenecks to further social integration and full participation in the economy. The road ahead would be to incorporate social integration activities within the social development programmes to boost equitable growth in the country.

“With exclusion and inequality on the rise, we must step up efforts to ensure that all people, without discrimination, are able to access opportunities to improve their lives and those of others.” – Former Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

By Manisha Bhatia

Media & Communications, Fiinovation

Fiinovation – How MNC’s are Contributing Towards Women Empowerment in India?

In the last two decades, their has been significant emergence of MNCs. The fast food outlets such as Mc Donald’s, KFC, Dominos, Pizza Hut, Burger King, etc. are now present even in smaller cities. Their emergence has led to an unique method of empowering women of the country.

For these MNCs, recruitment of women is almost necessary as they don’t want to run their businesses with only men. In this regard, they hire women to maintain a gender balance among the employees. Although, the plan seems to be good, but in a country like India, it is not that easy to find good women employees. It is a nation where women are not encouraged much to work outside their homes. Therefore, several MNCs are going off track to attract women employees by providing them with activities which ultimately helps them to get empowered.

The difference can be witnessed easily. A visit to the Delhi’s malls will make you witness women workforce in the outlets, whereas in a market place the women’s clothing stores are manned by men. Ironically, we do not observe women at these stores. Despite years of progress, India still has a skewed sex ratio and its tough place to be a women. There is a vast difference in the way things use to be and specially now after the emergence of MNCs.

Understanding the situation, the American food chains are doing a bit more than expected to ensure that they are able to employ more women. From allowing their parents to see the workplace to even taste the new burger about to be launched, these companies are doing a lot to attract women employees. Fiinovation, a global CSR consulting company understands that people around the world would be unaware about the hardship that these companies are putting in to cultivate female employees.

Fiinovation believes, going off track food chains such as Burger King teaches self defense to its women employees. Similarly, Pizza Hut, KFC and Taco Bell run a mentorship program to help the women employees. Even Mc Donald’s appoints a “Female Confidant” at every outlet to ensure the women talk more freely about their lives and family problems. Apart from these, steps are even taken to give mothers flexible working hours.

These things are changing the way businesses operate in India. With more females joining the workforce, the societal hurdles are bound to reduce in the coming years. Fiinovation also believes that these affirmative action initiatives by the MNCs is a significant step towards empowerment of women in this country. With India being a prominent member of G20, it should lead by example for other emerging economies to follow.

Therefore, let us hope that in future, other businesses will implement similar initiatives that will help the country grow inclusively.

By Rahul Choudhury

Media & Communications, Fiinovation

Fiinovation Observes – International Volunteer Day

Across the globe, several initiatives are being implemented to solve prevalent issues of the society. The International Volunteer Day or International Volunteer Day for Economic and Social Development provides an opportunity for volunteers (both individuals as well as institutions) to contribute at local, national and international levels towards achievement of the socio-economic and environmental goals.

The day was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly through a resolution on 17th December, 1985. Every year on 5th December, the day provides opportunities to volunteers for causes such as eradication of poverty, hunger, disease, illiteracy, degradation of the environment, discrimination against women, etc. Over the years, the International Volunteers Day has been utilised strategically by governments and corporations to encourage volunteerism aligning them with the Millennium Development Goals.

Fiinovation, with its vast experience in social development initiatives, has been encouraging corporations to urge their employees to volunteer for social causes. Although, cost involved in volunteerism doesn’t fall under the CSR rules in India, yet it is definitely a positive process to engage with the local communities. It is observed that volunteers around the world work tirelessly to craft a better future for everyone, especially during crisis situations. On this day, Fiinovation acknowledges the efforts of more than 6700 UN volunteers, 12,000 UN online volunteers and 1 billion community volunteers for their selfless contribution in the upliftment of society.

Understanding the prevalent crisis situations such as in the middle-east, Africa and other parts of the world, volunteers have risen up and provided shelter and requisite support to millions of refugees who have been forced to flee from their homes. The floods in Haiti and malaria outbreak in Sri Lanka are examples in the recent months where volunteering has helped in saving thousands of lives. “Founded on the values of solidarity and mutual trust, volunteerism transcends all cultural, linguistic and geographic boundaries. By giving their time and skills without expecting any material reward, volunteers themselves are uplifted by a singular sense of purpose,” was the message from UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon. In his message he pressed on the need to lend a hand and applauded volunteers for their commitment towards building a peaceful, prosperous and a dignified future for all.

Fiinovation believes that the role of volunteers will be crucial in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. Therefore, let us all increase the awareness of voluntary contributions, thereby motivating more people from different walks of life to offer their services as volunteers.

By Rahul Choudhury

Media & Communications, Fiinovation

FIINOVATION OBSERVES – WORLD AIDS DAY

Every year, 1st December is observed as the WORLD AIDS DAY to raise awareness about the AIDS pandemic caused due to HIV infection. The day also pays tribute to those who have succumbed to death due to the disease. It is one of the eight global public health campaigns recognized by World Health Organization (WHO) including World Health Day, World Blood Donor Day, World Malaria Day etc.

The idea to reserve the day was first initiated in August 1987 by the two public information officers for the Global Programme on AIDS at WHO (World Health Organization), James W. Bunn and Thomas Netter. The idea was further approved by the Director of Global Programme, Dr. Mann in December 1988.

The figure estimates that till 2015, AIDS has taken 36 million lives and almost equal are suffering from the HIV infection. Since the start of the epidemic, 78 million people have become infected with HIV. More than 18 million people suffering from the disease are receiving life-saving HIV treatment to eliminated HIV and stop the mother to child infection. Although, medical progression has made the HIV treatment possible but still every year thousands of people are diagonised with HIV infection. The antiretroviral treatment which is now available to cure the disease is yet to be accessible around the world. The poor and marginalised section of the society is often unable to access the treatment and claims estimated 2 million lives each year, comprising 270,000 children.

Worldwide, India has the third largest number of HIV cases and estimated 2.1 million people are known to be infected by the virus. The Lance Study reveals that in 2015, 196,000 new cases of HIV have been registered and around 130,000 people have died due to the complications related to AIDS.

Every year the World AIDS Day is observed around a specific theme. The theme for year 2016 is centered around Hands up for #HIVprevention, focused on raising awareness about the preventive measures of HIV infection.

Under the Sustainable Development goals, it is targeted to eliminate AIDS epidemic by 2030. However, the coinfections from diseases such as tuberculosis (TB), cervical cancer and hepatitis C is creating hindrance in achieving this target.

Fiinovation feels, that better access to treatment, preventive measures, elimination of stigma and taboo attached with the disease, and spreading awareness about the disease will help in fighting the disease and achieve the sustainable development goals. Together, we should stand united to fight against the disease.

HIV doesn’t make people dangerous to know. You can shake hands and give them a hug. Heaven knows they need it – Princess Diana

By Manisha Bhatia, Media & Communications, Fiinovation

Fiinovation Observation: International Day of Families

“A family is like branches on a tree, we all grow in different directions, yet our roots remain as one.”

“A family is like branches on a tree, we all grow in different directions, yet our roots remain as one.”

In today’s dynamic world that is grappled with various issues such as gender, livelihood, healthcare, education safety and security, sanitation and human and child rights, it becomes crucial to address the challenges that a family faces. The United Nations started focusing on these challenges during the 80’s and enhancing awareness among nations for addressing the needs of the families through effective ways. Families play a crucial role in achieving the social development targets. In the year 1989 the UNGA passed a resolution proclaiming the year as International Year of the Family, observing that its concentration should be at the local, regional and national levels. The move was a means to improve the status and well-being of the families and intensifying the co-operation levels among the international community to advance social progress, growth and development.

Further progress was made when in 1994, UNGA passed a resolution proclaiming to observe 15th May as International Day of Families every year. This day provides everyone with the opportunity to introspect and promote awareness of the issues pertaining to families and to increase the knowledge of the factors affecting social, economic and demographic processes. Fiinovation, a research organization, working in the social development sector understands the importance of inclusive development which cannot happen until the issues affecting the families are addressed. This year the theme is ‘Men in Charge?’ which highlights the significance of gender equality and children’s rights in modern families.

Today, across the world, efforts are on to ensure women are being recognized as equal partners and decision makers in the family. This not only promotes a favourable environment for the empowerment of women but also development of children. Discrimination against women and children are still built into family laws and government policies which have social and economical costs attached to them. This also leads to violence and threatens health of women and children, limiting their overall development.

Like all other nations, India also needs to focus on social and economic framework that supports the rights of women and children. The laws, rules, morals and policies that discriminate against a specific gender do not have any place in contemporary families, communities, societies and nations. Therefore, Fiinovation urges governments, corporations, societies and individuals to change the legal and social norms that support male domination over women. As we are moving towards completion of MDGs and adopting SDGs, let us all strive towards a world of dignity for all.

Let us all stand united for the development of families and people at large.

“A family is like branches on a tree, we all grow in different directions, yet our roots remain as one.”

By – Rahul Choudhury

Media and Communication – Fiinovation