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Monday, September 2, 2013

180-day Maternity Leave for Govt staff must: House panel

NEW DELHI: There are no uniform rules for female employees in government departments and organizations and they are treated by varying yardsticks when it comes to essential benefits like maternity and child care leave (CCL). 

Dismayed after finding that maternity leave can vary from 90 to 135 days, a Parliamentary panel has suggested that all government departments and organizations should ensure 180 days of leave for their women employees. 

The panel found many organizations grant 90, 85 or 135 days of maternity leave. It has said child care leave (CCL) of 730 days must be granted with pay to women employees across the board in government.

The committee was also distressed by the low presence of women employees in Government organizations. "It is disheartening to observe that it is significantly low...10.04% as per the 2012 census of Central Government employees," the panel said. The representation is particularly poor in semi-urban and rural areas. 

The Standing Committee on Law, Personnel and Public Grievances on the 'status of women in government employment and in public sector undertakings' was unhappy that while a majority of the organizations do grant CCL, but they do so without pay. 

For example, Mahanandi Coalfields Ltd gives CCL to female employees working as executives but not for non-executive category. In Cochin Shipyard Ltd, CCL is not granted since there is no specific direction from the department of public enterprises. 

The policy has been discontinued in Mormugao Port Trust even though CCL benefits have been extended to all civilian female industrial employees in government since September, 2008. But many women employees hesitate to avail the leave, if granted without pay. 

Introduction of "flexible timings" for female employees, especially young mothers, so that organizations can retain talent has been mooted by the committee headed by Congress MP Shantaram Naik as the panel found household responsibilities as a major reason for attrition among women employees. 

The government has been asked to explore the policy on "staggered working hours" or "work at home" for female employees. The panel was informed that the recommendation of Sixth Pay Commission regarding staggered working hours was not accepted by the Government. 

Single women should be given postings closest to their hometown or places of their choice, the panel said. "It should be mandatorily ensured," it said, adding that this "pertinent factor" should be kept in mind during allocation of postings by department heads. 

The provision for giving same station posting to couples may be given statutory backing, the panel recommended as it found the instruction is not always adhered to. 

Women employees who travel beyond office hours should be provided with security and proper transport by the employer in order to ensure their safety, the Committee said. 

The panel also noted that action taken on complaints of sexual harassment at workplace is "not satisfactory". It felt merely transferring a delinquent employee to a different branch or station is inadequate and strict disciplinary action is needed. "The punishment has to be deterrent for prospective offenders," the panel said.