It is a truth universally acknowledged that a working man is a respectable person but working mothers or working women don’t earn this badge of honour unless they are exemplary homemakers who can balance work, home, relationships, children, kitchen and the list goes on. Women have been considered expendable and somewhat secondary to their male counterparts from the beginning of time. We are appendages and domestic accessories in this male-dominated context. We have been exposed to the blatant systematic oppression and scrutiny of our gender for multifarious years yet we are subjected to allegations of incompetence at every level and pedestal of our lives.
If you feel that the introductory line was allusive to the state of women around the world then let me welcome you to the spicy Indian setting of the taste of patriarchy and misogyny. Households are considered transgressive for allowing the women of the house to work. Husbands are subversive if they encourage their wives to continue working after their marriage.
But, what happens after we as women have crossed and leaped across barriers and planes of so-called ‘traditions’ to reach the finishing line? When you have been working for someone for ten years and you decide to have a child and they refuse to give you paid maternity leave, what happens then?
Being a Working Mother at the Workplace
Working mothers belong to that section of society which suffers tribulations of all kinds in order to achieve their desire of having an amalgamation of professional and domestic life or their need to want to contribute as a bread-earner. Whatever the reason might be, they suffer the brunt of snide comments and unfair treatment. An article by Business Standard in November 2018 says that according to the International Labour Organization (ILO) women earn 34% in India less than men. The findings in the flagship publication of the International Labour Organization (ILO), Global Wage Report 2018-19, part-time work is more prevalent in women.
This empirical evidence and survey findings prove the existence of suppression towards women who wish to work. Economic Times published an article in March 2019 which said that 60% women in India feel discriminated at the workplace and one-third of women aren’t considered for top management positions. In the above mentioned article, one section talks about The ‘Women of India Inc.’ survey which showed stark discrimination at work in a notable form which is that, men feel that women are less serious about work once they are married and 46% women feel that maternity leads to the perception that they will quit or that they won’t work after they have had a child. These generalized perceptions and assumptions of apparent laziness, ineptitude and lack of work ethic in women is what propagates itself further to contribute itself as a factor for prejudice against working mothers
Working mothers face troubles such as finding affordable creche and daycare facilities for their children, getting little or no paid leaves after adopting or giving birth to a child, facing discrimination for being a working mother in an orthodox society which calls itself subversive and getting flexible schedule which doesn’t coincide with breastfeeding timetables and family time.
After the economic and financial collapse of 2008, wage growth has already declined and is nearly stagnated. When the wage gap freezes or ceases to develop then the gender pay gap also remains still and that worsens the situation of working mothers who choose to work. And now, after the Great Indian Lockdown due to Covid-19, which left thousands homeless and jobless, Working mothers fear for their incomes and jobs which had already been hanging by a thread in the past.
Ungender’s Handbook for Working Mothers and its usage during the lockdown
Ungender Legal Advisory has launched it’s Handbook For Working Mothers, 2020, and it hopes that this document will prove as an invaluable resource during these times for the human resources community, startup founders, corporate heads and other main stakeholders, including working women, to help protect the legal rights of primary caregivers.
Pallavi Pareek, its founder states that the ignorance of legal guidelines and good practices is one reason for the absence of them in workplaces. This handbook covers multiple questions, situations and solutions in law which help working mothers with a proper work experience. Due to the closing of creches and daycare centres, mother’s can’t rely on a safe source where they can send their children while they work. The handbook by Ungender is a comprehensive study of the rights and laws concerning working mother’s during the pandemic.
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The three ways in which working women will be affected by this lockdown are that they would have to manage their work and personal lives, the pay cuts and lay-offs will affect working women more because of the existing pay gap and the colossal effect of the alteration of labour laws on women workers. These three issues concern women widely and haven’t been addressed by the government. The dilution of the labour laws calls for discourse over it’s consequence and resolution.
According to the Ungender Handbook for Working Mothers, The World Bank Report on Labour Force Participation Rate updated up to March 1, 2020, indicates a drop of 20% in the participation of women in the previous decade. Lot of reasons have been accorded to this drop, including poor health and safety facilities, lack of flexible working structure and pressure on the domestic front. However, this needs to change as women account for 48% of the population in India. Women won’t be encouraged to go to work and earn as labourers because of the altered labour laws which require greater working time.
Indian families already look down at women who choose to work; with these draconian laws in place women can’t even move past their houses. The question of mental and physical health also comes into play because these working laws will disallow healthy working hours which will affect the mental peace of not just women but every labourer. When the lockdown ends and the economy requires to be lifted to where it was prior to the introduction of Covid-19 then companies and sectors would embolden the need to cut leave days and maternity leaves.
All these concerns are covered in the handbook by Ungender for these uncertain times. The handbook is a structured learning tool for working mothers all over India who want to be aware of their rights as it centralizes itself on the Maternity Benefits Act, 1961, it’s consequent revisions over the years and it’s relevance in today’s partially locked world with suspended labour laws and rights.
Also read: Mothers’ Day: Let Us Not Celebrate Women’s Exploitation
Pareek writes, “At Ungender we believe that by fully complying with the MB act and provide flexible working structures wherever possible, every employer will advantage from strong women labour participation.” These are uncertain times, but what period in history hasn’t been challenging for women, especially working mothers who strive to strike a work-life balance?
Download Ungender‘s handbook here.
Featured Image Source: Science