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What does the maternity leave policy look like at Indian ad agencies?

Navigating a return to work after maternity leave remains a significant challenge for many working mothers, particularly in industries known for their demanding schedules. To shed light on this issue, we spoke to 11 Indian agencies to understand their maternity leave policies and efforts to support returning mothers.

In 2017, India’s Maternity Leave policy saw a major revision, increasing the leave duration from 12 weeks (3 months) to 26 weeks (6 months) and adding provisions for adoptive mothers and remote work options. Although these changes mark a significant stride in empowering women, the advertising industry, known for its high demands, still presents challenges for new mothers.

A recent story done by Social Samosa discussed at length how new moms still struggle to find their own space in one of the most stressful industries, highlighting their different battles. To further find out how this industry is becoming more supportive of working mothers and parents, we conducted a survey involving over 30 firms.

Our aim was to evaluate their support systems for working parents and understand the assistance provided. Below, we examine the maternity leave policies and additional support initiatives of 11 participating agencies, providing insights into their efforts to create a more family-friendly work environment.

maternity leave

AdLift

Per the Maternity Act, for first and second-time mothers, AdLift offers new mothers six months, or 180 days, off.

Additionally, the agency provides medical insurance benefits that cover all hospital and medical expenses for both the mother and the newborn. Post birth of the child, the agency offers work hours, allowing employees to work from the office for a few hours and then transition to working from home for the remainder of the day while caring for the baby. The agency also provides a 10-days paternity leave to fathers.

Speaking about whether workplaces have become more supportive of working moms today than a decade ago, Ayesha Desai, HR Head, AdLift said, “Yes, workplaces have become more supportive of working moms compared to a decade ago. To further enhance support, they can offer flexible scheduling, remote work opportunities, affordable childcare options, extended parental leave, and mentorship networks for career advancement.”

dentsu

Dentsu’s maternity leave policy aligns with the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act, 2017, providing paid leave for 26 weeks to expecting female employees with no or fewer than two surviving children. This leave is split into 8 weeks of pre-natal and 18 weeks of post-natal leave.

Additionally, the agency also offers paid leave for up to 1 month if a woman employee experiences illness related to pregnancy, delivery, or premature birth. In the unfortunate event of a miscarriage or medical termination of pregnancy, female employees can avail of six weeks of maternity benefits immediately following the occurrence.

Female employees who legally adopt a child under three months of age can avail of 12 weeks of maternity benefits from the date of adoption. They also guarantee parental leave for individuals of all genders.

Under the agency’s childcare policy, it offers the following:

  • Flexible/hybrid work arrangements.
  • Extended WFH support.
  • Provision and access to lactation rooms for new mothers.
  • Empowering returning mothers from non-tech backgrounds, especially those managing different time zones, by providing upskilling opportunities to transition into tech roles and offering more convenient shift schedules.
  • Access to employee assistance programs and counselling services.

Unmesh Pawar, Chief People Officer, India & South Asia, dentsu said, “Over the past decade, workplaces have made significant strides in being more supportive of working mothers. However, there are always opportunities for doing more.

To further support working mothers, workplaces can implement policies such as:

  • Extended maternity leaves beyond the legal mandate.
  • WFH arrangements with a provision/allowance for creating a set-up at home to work seamlessly.
  • Providing on-site childcare facilities or subsidising childcare expenses can alleviate the stress of finding reliable childcare arrangements for working mothers as well as achieve a balance between work and childcare. 
  • Adding more amenities in lactation rooms, such as breast pumps and refrigerators for storing expressed milk, can support breastfeeding mothers who return to work. 
  • Offering career development and upskilling opportunities tailored specifically for working mothers can help them progress in their careers while balancing family responsibilities.
  • Phased support to returning mothers (via returnship programs) to fully re-integrate & transition back into their work roles.
  • Creating awareness and encouraging co-option to actively participate in the maternity journey and post-maternity caregiving responsibilities.

By implementing these measures and continually assessing and addressing the evolving needs of working mothers, workplaces in India can further enhance their support for this important demographic.”

Infectious Advertising 

Infectious Advertising offers six months of maternity leave, after which WFH options are often offered.

Nisha Singhania, CEO & Managing Partner of Infectious Advertising, said, “Letting new moms WFH, flexible hours, allowing them to bring their babies to work certain days, having crèches are some initiatives that can help. Counselling is also something that can help women deal with the situation.”

IPG Mediabrands  

At IPG Mediabrands India, every woman is entitled to maternity leave of 180 days. The agency has also partnered with two creche and childcare organisations to provide support to new mothers as they return to work.

Savita Mathai, Group Chief Talent Officer, IPG Mediabrands India, said, “I think the conversations around workplaces being supportive of working moms are more intense today. We at IPG Mediabrands have been championing it for many years. Finally, true support is all about studiously building a culture rooted in deep belief and not just policies and activities that pay lip service. Once this foundation is laid, initiatives like mentorship programs and childcare support naturally fall into place.”

MullenLowe Lintas Group

MullenLowe Lintas Group has updated its parental leave policies to be gender-neutral. The agency offers a six-month primary caregiver leave and a three-week secondary caregiver leave. 

Additionally, the agency offers hybrid work arrangements, allowing new primary caregivers to work a 3-day week until the child is one year old. Furthermore, the agency has a Mother’s room across all its offices. They also have an OPD reimbursement facility where the costs of regular check-ups and vaccinations get covered to a large extent. 

Garima Pant, Group HR Director, MullenLowe Lintas Group, thinks that the government has played a pivotal role in making the huge shift of maternity leave change to six months. She added, “This has made six months a norm Vs an exception, and slowly, it’s getting normalised. There is a greater understanding of the need for primary caregivers to manage the new changes in their lives, and leaders and supervisors are more sensitive and accommodating to the needs of new parents.”

PivotRoots – A Havas Company

PivotRoots provides six months of maternity leave. Additionally, the agency also offers day-care facility till the child is 6 years of age.

Hetal Khalsa, co-founder and Chief Creative Officer, PivotRoots – A Havas Company, said, “We offer flexible timings, and also provide an option of work-from-home pre and post maternity till the time the new mother is settled and feels ready to get back to the daily routine. While these are basic requirements, if the mindset of the immediate managers and overall ideology of the organisation do not understand the intensity of the situation, these facilities won’t help.”

Publicis Groupe South Asia

The current maternity leave policy at Publicis Groupe South Asia is six months. 

The agency also offers additional support to mothers during their maternity leaves. Their Employee Assistance Partner, Truworth provides a comprehensive program that covers the whole pregnancy spectrum (from pre-natal to post-natal).

The agency has also partnered with Thrive Global, a leading behavioural change organisation. They offer specially designed learning content on topics like Thriving Parenthood to teach effective techniques and microsteps to cope with parenting related stress. Additionally, the agency has tied-up with creche facilities across all their locations.

Giving advice on how workplaces can be more supportive towards working moms, Surbhi Gupta, Chief Talent Officer, Publicis Groupe South Asia said, “Workplaces are becoming more supportive than ever before. I think there is more recognition of flexible working and more tools and resources to maintain the productivity levels for working moms who are working flexibly or completely remote.

Workplaces can increase their support by maybe creating an employee support group for young parents (for both mothers and fathers). Where people can offer support to each other as they face similar milestones and challenges.”

Schbang

Schbang offers a 6 months maternity leave to mothers. 

The agency provides the support of a professional counsellor throughout the pregnancy journey and postpartum period as well. The agency also provides a 15-days paternity leave to all new fathers.

Mini Nair, Head Human Resources Schbang said, “Workplaces today are undeniably more supportive of working moms than they were a decade ago. In the past, work was often confined to the office, and flexible arrangements were rare. However, there’s been a paradigm shift in how companies approach work-life balance and support for working parents. Improved parental leave policies have been implemented, offering extended maternity and paternity leave. 

Many organisations have introduced or expanded childcare support, such as emergency childcare resources, creche facilities and daycare services. Companies are providing leadership and training opportunities for working moms to advance their careers. Additionally, providing counselling services and mental health support specifically designed for working moms also promotes their well-being.”

SoCheers 

SoCheers provides six months of paid maternity leave and flexible working opportunities, depending on the requirements. 

The agency offers a childcare room facility at work. The baby can accompany the mom to work and the room also extends as a nursing room wherever necessary. They also offer paternity  paid leave of four weeks. Additionally, the agency provides a continuation of health insurance coverage and emotional and mental health to expecting parents. 

Nupoor Pradhan, Head – People Operations, SoCheers said, “Workplaces today have evolved a lot with time. It’s becoming a common norm these days to see organisations opting for flexible work timings, extended maternity leaves, over and above care and support to new moms. Overall we also see quite a shift in the attitude towards new moms. There’s a lot more awareness and understanding of the challenges that working moms face and organisations today work towards providing a more supportive environment.

Additionally, there are quite a few ways to keep improving on this.

Normalising paternal leaves: New dads also need time off from work to spend time with their partners and the newborns. This also enables them to support the new mothers in the new phase.

Childcare support: Facilitating access to day care centres near the office space or helping in sourcing of babysitters/nannies so that the new parents can be focussed on work while their baby is well taken care of

Feeding rooms at workplace: Babycare/feeding rooms at workplaces will allow the moms to get their babies to work on days when it’s required and not worry about the babies while they are at work.”

Talented

Talented offers a six-month paid leave to expectant mothers and the option of extending maternity leave beyond the standard period on a case-by-case basis.  

In their paternity policy, the agency offers fathers with 5 weeks of leave, extendable to 8 weeks. And an additional month of time off can be availed under the same terms if necessary. 

The agency also provides support to parents by providing them with OB-GYNs, pregnancy consultants, mental health professionals, lactation consultants, and more. 

Arantxa Aquino, Lead, HR & Talent Experience at Talented said, “On a larger scale, companies are becoming more adaptive but advertising is being left behind because of how we function at present. As we navigate the evolving landscape of modern work culture, there’s one thing that resonates deeply with us: the importance of supporting working parents. When we prioritise the well-being and success of parents in the workforce, we not only foster a more inclusive environment but also lay the foundation for a truly thriving organisation.”

She pointed out how else can workplaces support working parents:

  • Paid parental leave should extend beyond policy compliance.
  • Recognising the unique nature of each parental journey by offering extended leave.
  • Consider long-term prospects of on-site childcare to ease separation anxiety and support working parents.Reflects modern family dynamics with more mothers as breadwinners and fathers actively involved in childcare.
  • Partnering with vetted agencies for nanny services to help new parents transition back to work smoothly.
  • Providing comfortable and private lactation rooms for breastfeeding or pumping supports new mothers.
  • Investing in these programs helps parents navigate the challenges of parenthood with resilience.
  • Clear plans and flexible work arrangements empower parents to advance in their careers post-parental leave.

She added, “There’s a reason people working within the industry have to choose between having kids and a long-term career in advertising. The reality is that the above policies are only suggestive and not in action within ad agencies. For an industry whose premise is to solve problems creatively, we don’t apply those rules for our creatives.”

Tonic Worldwide

Tonic Worldwide (TWW) has an all-paid maternity leave policy of 6 months, which can be extended.

The agency’s medical insurance policy covers all hospitalisation expenses during childbirth, and newborns receive insurance coverage from Day 1. Their mental health partners provide counselling services after childbirth as well, which are available to family members as well. The agency also provides dedicated lactation room to mothers. 

Tonic offers a 15-working-day paternity leave, which can be taken before or after delivery, with the option of extension. 

Sanjana Ramesh, Lead – People & Culture, Tonic Worldwide said, “Organizations have indeed evolved significantly in their support for working moms compared to a decade ago. The widespread adoption of remote working, accelerated by the lockdown, has facilitated a better work-life balance for both employers and employees, particularly beneficial for new parents adjusting to their new routines.

Furthermore, the Government of India’s decision to double the mandatory maternity leave from 12 weeks to 24 weeks signifies a growing recognition of the importance of supporting working mothers in the workforce. While there is always room for improvement and evolution, the positive changes observed in workplaces for new parents have been substantial.
 
We believe that workplaces should continuously strive to cultivate environments where working mothers and their families feel valued, supported, and empowered to succeed both personally and professionally.”

PS: We reached out to as many Indian agencies as we could. If you still wish to be included in this list, please email us your details at snehamedda@socialsamosa.com 

Source: Social Samosa

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