Whether by personal choice, or as a result of unalterable circumstances, many working women in India today take sabbaticals and other extended periods of leave.
By the time circumstances change for the better, re-entering the workforce can often be difficult and frustrating. However, there are avenues out there that you can access to make the transition back to work in a smooth, hassle-free manner.
Legal Provisions For Working Women In India:
It’s important to know your legal rights as a woman and an employee. The Maternity Benefits Act, 1961, applies to all women across India employed with their organisation for at least 80 days in the past 12 calendar months.
It specifies that a woman has right to paid leave for at least six weeks after the date of delivery (or miscarriage) of her child, and to be fully reinstated to her previous position after that minimum period of time. In the event of illness caused by said delivery or miscarriage, additional leave with full pay must be granted for the maximum of one month.
However, many companies have their own HR policies about maternity leave, benefits, and return-to-work that go beyond the Government’s minimum guidelines: they can offer anywhere between 3-6 months of leave apart from guaranteed reinstatement upon return.
Check with your own company’s policies and your employment contract to be sure of your individual benefits and assurance of reinstatement. While these provisions specifically apply to women taking time off for pregnancies and childbirth, some companies have similar provisions for personal sabbaticals.
Larger corporations tend to have better policies – for women who work in smaller set-ups, insisting on your legal rights and a written agreement (ideally before the start of your leave) is an advisable course of action.
Corporate Programmes For Working Women:
The Tata Second Career Internship Programme for Women (SCIP) is a “career transition management programme for professionals.” It is geared towards women professionals who have worked for four continuous years in the fields of HR, Marketing, Finance, Legal, Manufacturing, and related areas, and have taken sabbaticals for anywhere between 1-8 years.
The internship is a paid one. It does not guarantee placement at the end of the programme, but interns “have the option of exploring full-time employment on mutually acceptable terms with the respective Group Company.” For more details, application forms, and deadlines, visit: www.tatasecondcareer.com
Back-To-Work Workshops & Courses for Working Women:
Fleximoms runs a series of workshops called 2nd Chance, which pegs itself as India’s first back-to-work programme for women. These 2-day workshops are held in Delhi, Noida, and Gurgaon, and enquiries about their fees can be directed to the email address/telephone numbers available on their contact page. Fleximoms additionally runs a “preparedness” module that helps women going back to work be up-to-date with jobseeking trends and skills.
The School of Inspired Leadership (SOIL) offers a one-year programme called Career Reconnect for Women, also aimed specifically at women getting back to work after a sabbatical. The programme aims to “help women gain insight into relevant and contemporary areas of business that will help them rejoin corporate life or start their own entrepreneurial venture.” The programme, which begins in August, is a bit pricey at Rs.7,46,950, but includes accommodation and meals at the SOIL campus in Gurgaon, NCR.
Tips for Women Going Back to Work
• In interviews with employers, be frank and unapologetic about the time you took off from work. Be direct about what your priorities were at the time, and what they are now.
• If you’re currently on a sabbatical and will be for a while longer, consider getting back into your field on a part-time or consultant basis. This way, when you return to work full-time, employers will have less reservations about hiring someone who’s been “out of the game” over somebody who has recently graduated.
• When returning back to work, let employers know how you’ve been keeping up-to-date on your skills all the while. As a returning legal adviser or attorney, for example, you should demonstrate how aware you are of legal precedents since the start of your sabbatical; if you’re a certified professional in your field, show them how your accreditations are current.
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