Global financial firms are expanding maternity benefits across India to include perks rarely seen elsewhere. The move is part of an effort to attract and retain female employees. Overall, less than a quarter of adult women in India work, among the lowest rates in the world.
“We will never become a developed country without women’s participation,” said Aditya Mittal, Chief Human Resources Officer of Citi India & South Asia. The bank last week announced that new mothers will now have the option to work from home for up to a year after their paid leave ends, according to a report by Bloomberg.
India already mandates a minimum 26 weeks of maternity leave at full pay. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government also launched a job training program for women in 2021, and last year touted that adopting flexible hours could be a way to encourage women to work outside the home.
This is on contrary with the US, where there’s no legal provision for paid leave at all. Both JPMorgan Chase & Co and Bank of America Corp offer 16 weeks off for all new parents. Goldman Sachs Group Inc gives mothers and fathers 20 weeks off.
Banks are hungry for talent in India. With US-China tensions growing, many global lenders are targeting the country, drawn by its fast-growing economy and burgeoning middle class. HSBC is recruiting wealth bankers for its reestablished private banking unit, and Citigroup has identified India as one of its top markets for expansion.
Including talented women in the recruitment drive, and retaining those already working at the banks, means addressing the specific needs of female employees in the world’s most-populous country. In addition to the required on-site daycare, HSBC Holdings Plc provides female employees with a monthly childcare allowance of up to $216 to pay for a nanny to look after kids up to age of 6.
The bank found that many of its employees wanted to keep their children home, and a nanny adds to the traditional extended-family support systems that new parents typically rely on, said Archana Chadha, Head of Human Resources at HSBC India. The London-based bank, with about 39,000 employees in India, also provides new mothers with flexible hours and post-natal career development.
“The idea is to provide support and make life easier for women when they come back to work,” she said in an interview in Mumbai.
At Morgan Stanley, pregnant employees in Mumbai and Bangalore can expense cab rides to and from work in their last trimester, avoiding India’s notoriously overcrowded buses and trains. “We found a lot of women used to leave in that phase simply because it is so difficult to travel in public transport in those months,” said Rajat Mathur, Head of Human Resources for India.
Morgan Stanley also provides a gradual return to work for women coming back from maternity leave, coaching for expectant and new parents, and mentoring. It also offers new dads up to 16 weeks of leave, Mathur said. Indian law currently provides 15 days of paternity leave to government employees, but there aren’t any mandatory minimums for the private sector.
Citigroup plans to expand its paternity leave benefits, Mittal said, “on par with maternity leave” over the next year.