During a conversation with a friend in Australia, I was amazed to know that for working mothers there Day Care for their little one is not an option, it is an eventuality. Home baby-sitting is another alternative, which works out slightly expensive and has its own disadvantages. We then discussed at length how things were different in India and people had huge reservations about sending their kids to a crèche/day care. Then the incidents of child abuse that happen now and then do no good to elevate the already dwindled confidence that our society has on the Day Care facilities. For this reason, a large percentage (approximately 30%) of working women has to give up their jobs after they become mothers.
Yet there are some Day Care Centers which have been able to make a mark as they provide the best of facilities to the children of double income parents who do not have elders to supervise their kids at home or who do not trust their kids with maids alone at home. Backyard Bears (BB) is one such modern day care facility. Set-up in the commercial heart of Mumbai city, the team BB comprises of two mothers who themselves had to compromise their careers to take care of their kids. This was for lack of a day care facility that could meet their expectations and address all their concerns as parents. I recently chanced upon an interaction with one of the founding members of Backyard Bears and was curious to understand how the role of Day Care centers could be modified to make a positive difference to a working mother’s life. During this interaction she also told me about the endeavors by the current Women And Child Development ministry to establish more Day Care facilities for working mothers’ kids. Here are the excerpts from the interaction with Rajavi Agarwal, a founding partner at Backyard Bears.
The suggestions made in the Maternity Benefits Act (Amendments), 2017 relating to crèche facilities
As per the latest recommendation by Maneka Gandhi, Indian Union Cabinet Minister for Women & Child Development,
“Companies with 50 or more employees will now have to mandatorily provide a day care facility, or crèche. Companies may join with other firms and set up a common facility within a prescribed distance. The amended Act includes a provision to allow the mother (the female employee returned from leave) to visit the crèche up to 4 times in a day.”
The above needs will be executed by all companies by 1st July, 2017.
How this will benefit the working mothers
In today’s times many mothers travel far away distances for the call of their job. While some have a decent support system to take care of their kid in their absence, yet a large percentage is helpless and clueless. The only option they are left with is to quit working.
With the new requirements in the Maternity Benefits Act, they can now not only leave their kids at a day care/ crèche close to their work place but also visit them during the work day. This will boost the confidence of the mothers that their kids are taken care of and are safe not very far away from them. They can thus continue to work and pursue their dreams with an assurance that their kids are being taken care of properly.
How the Corporate community has responded to the above amendment
As per Rajavi, though many corporate have come up with queries for a tie up and requested for quotations, few have actually stepped ahead to make way for their mother employees to bring their kids to the crèche.
The challenges for the corporate to comply with such a requirement are many. The first and foremost being that they have been caught off guard and have had to rebudget their entire employee welfare program. They now need to figure the potential cost of setting up a crèche or collaborating with an existing crèche to fall in line with the latest requirements of the Maternity Benefits Act.
Also the logistics of enabling young mother employees to make multiple visits to the crèche is bound to have an impact on the overall productivity. This aspect also needs consideration by the employers who are likely to be reluctant towards any development that will risk the cumulative efficiency of their system.
Parent Confidence in Day Cares remains a concern despite the Government’s intervention
Indian parents have traditionally been reluctant to keep their kids at a Crèche or Day Care. They would rather have their parents or a relative to take care of their kids, while they are away. With the assent of nuclear family culture, a significant section of double income parents have been forced to consider Day Cares for their kids. There are a couple of steps that Day Cares/Crèches can take to build and maintain parental confidence –
- Ensuring police verification for all the staff recruited and communicating the same to the parents.
- Installing security measures like CCTV cameras and sound monitoring systems to keep a tab on staff behavior while they deal with the kids.
- Training the teaching and non-teaching staff as per the Early Child Care and Education (ECCE) guidelines.
- Continuous on Job training for non-teaching staff and constant feedback about their behavior with the kids.
The founders at Backyard Bears also believe that the day cares need to enhance their services beyond the child-minding service and give their incumbents a rich learning experience.
With the latest amendments to the Maternity Benefits Act, India now is on the verge of joining ranks with several European Countries in terms of the longest Maternity Leave. Yet it remains to be seen how far the new recommendations relating to compulsory Day Cares/Crèche facility in the vicinity of the offices will bring the new mothers back to work and help them avoid the gaps in their employment.
The founders of Backyard Bears,Puja Malpani and Rajavi Agarwal identified a definite need for the working parents – a trustworthy and caring brand of daycare centers.
Their Philosophy at Backyard Bears is simple-“A place where there’s joy in the simple routines of an ordinary day, where being a child means being able to mess around and have fun. A place that’s warm and safe.”