TomorrowMakers

There is no right or wrong answer. It’s a personal choice you must make after asking yourself a few questions.

 Is it a good idea to quit your job after maternity leave

Having a baby is a life-changing experience. It is also a time to re-evaluate priorities. Should you continue in the job, or quit to take care of the baby? This is a dilemma that a lot of new mothers have to face. And it is not easy to arrive at a decision.

There are so many things to consider. Are you financially stable? Will quitting affect your career growth? Does your health permit you the luxury? If you’re resigning after a paid maternity leave, moral responsibility towards your organisation and ethics would also come into play.

The gender ratio in the Indian workforce is heavily imbalanced to begin with. Reasons vary from fewer educational opportunities for girls to archaic cultural norms. To add to it, most women quit their careers (or are pressured to quit) after marriage or motherhood. This number is so high that HR is especially trained to retain female talent after a maternity break.

India’s workforce gender gap is at 53 percentage points, as per a 2016 World Bank study. Research by World Bank with assistance from the National Sample Survey Organisation and census data reveals that the percentage of women in the workforce dropped from 42% in 1993-94 to 32% in 2011-12. 

There is no right or wrong answer to the question whether you should quit your job after your maternity leave. This decision depends on very personal circumstances, and no two women are in the same situation. If you are battling this decision, taking the following points into account should help.

Your health and your baby’s: The first and foremost factor is whether your health permits you to go back to work and whether your baby is ready – physically and mentally – to adapt to a few hours without you. If there are no issues, going back to work should be okay. 

Financial capability: This is a major consideration for women from middle-class families. Do you have the financial freedom to take a few years off? You should talk to your partner and discuss the money situation. Also, see if both of you are in accord regarding raising a baby with the help of family members and/or hired help. This can help you decide on your next move.

Career plans: Do you have ambitious career goals, or is motherhood the top priority? If you want to climb the corporate ladder, taking a few years off is not a good idea. But if you want to focus on your little angel, it’s fine to quit. Whatever you decide, there should be no guilt-tripping involved. As mentioned earlier, there are no right or wrong decisions. Do what your heart tells you.

Rights at the workplace: Understand what your rights are. Read the rules of your organisation regarding maternity leave and the options afterwards. For instance, are you legally and contractually obligated to continue working? Discuss with your HR manager what would work best for you. As per recent amendments in the Indian Maternity Act, Indian women should be given 26 weeks of paid maternity leave for the first two children. If adopting a child below the age of three months, they are entitled to 12 weeks of paid leave. If you feel this is sufficient time to bond with the baby, returning to the workplace might be a good idea.

Alternative solutions: The Indian Maternity Act also dictates that new mothers be given other options such as flexible working hours, work from home options, etc. after their leave. It also asks companies that have more than 50 employees to provide crèche facilities. You should talk to your line manager to understand what benefits you can avail of. This can be a major factor when you arrive at a decision. 

Health insurance: Did your company pay for hospitalisation costs during your delivery? Are you liable to pay them back if you quit? Will you be able to afford your health insurance – and that of your baby – if you quit? These are some of the questions you need to answer.

Moral responsibility: This is the most important (and the trickiest) factor. One school of thought says if you know beforehand that you will quit, a full disclosure before your maternity leave is the ethical thing to do. Another school of thought says it is okay to quit after the maternity leave is over, as companies are not exactly forthcoming with layoffs. A good way to look at it would be to finish your maternity leave and then decide what you want to do. At the end of six months, you might feel that staying home is not what you want. 

If you do decide to quit, you should do it a manner that’s considerate towards your manager and company. Give them enough notice, help with the transition, and ensure that you part ways on good terms. 

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