"Rejoin Now Or Quit": Women Share Harsh Perceptions Of Maternity Leave

While the law has made it mandatory to provide a paid gap to new mothers, employers seem to not get the reality of the memo. Working moms shared their experiences of demanding a basic right at the workplace.

Tanya Savkoor
New Update
maternity leave is not paid vacation

Image: Unsplash

Recently in an interview, Edelweiss Mutual Funds CEO, Radhika Gupta shared her experience of taking a maternity leave from work last year, sharing how her boss supported her through it. She said, "My boss told me pregnancy is a big event in the life of a woman, personally. But six months is not a big event in your career, and you always have to remember that." Gupta called this "the best advice from my boss." But what is so unusually righteous about this advice? Isn't that how every pregnant employee should be treated?


While the answer is yes, the reality of pregnancy at the workplace is far from ideal. Employers think of pregnant women as a liability to their company. A recent example of this is a remark made by Denbighshire Councillor, Terry Mendies, who said, "We've probably got to use agency staff to cover them [cost maternity leave], and that's an extra cost... So why would you not target the recruitment to be a bit more mature people?"

Maternity Leave In India

Motherhood being seen as a "virtue" is only limited to homemakers in India. When a working woman avails maternity leave, employers see it as a debate whether the woman is fit for the company or not. Shrinidhi from Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu, shared her experience on this with SheThePeople

"After getting a paid maternity leave for six months, I was not yet ready to go back to work so I asked my boss for an extended unpaid leave for six more months because of some health issues. Unfortunately, he denied my request saying that they are understaffed and asked me to rejoin now or quit so that they could hire someone else," she said, disappointed. The software engineer decided to resign and started working at another firm six months ago, after a two-year sabbatical. 


Shrinidhi's distress is shared by many women working at private firms in India. Employers and coworkers, some of whom are mothers themselves, give working women a hard time when they demand their right to paid leave.

"During my last few days ahead of maternity leave, I noticed one of my coworkers throwing subtle taunts my way, and she kept saying things like 'Maine toh baby ke baad job chhod di. Mujhe tab pay se faraq hi nahi pada' (I left my job after the baby. I did not even care about the pay). It hurt me so bad at that time," said Mitali Gurung, a Delhi-based marketing employee. The 32-year-old went on her second maternity leave last year.

Are 6 Months Enough?

Many women think that a six-month gap is not sufficient to recover from the pregnancy and look after the baby. They said that going back to work in six months feels like added psychological stress while trying to balance the baby's care with work.

Kanchan Pandit, a bank employee from Bengaluru, said that she had to go home for 30 minutes during the lunch break every day to feed her first baby girl. During the second baby, she decided to start solid food for him to avoid the hassle of travelling and now only feeds him before and after work.

Pandit said that she took a six-month maternity leave for each child, with an additional four months of unpaid break before the second delivery due to health complications. She talked about feeling disconnected from work during the leave and the struggle of limited paternity leave followed by having to rejoin in six months.


"It is psychologically difficult to leave the baby behind and go back to work. I felt like I was leaving my babies right when they had started understanding and building our bond," she shared. She also shared about the trouble of finding a caretaker before rejoining work. Mitali Gurung also touched on the difficulty of finding and trusting a nanny. 

Employers only look at pregnancy from a highly technical lens, believing that physically recovering from pregnancy and recruiting a nanny are sufficient for new mothers to bounce back to work. But the psychological trauma of leaving a baby behind so early into their life and detaching from motherhood while at work often goes ignored. 

Some women even get insufficient support and negative comments when they rejoin work, which adds to the stress. Just providing a paid leave cannot be deemed as support until employers truly understand the physical and mental trouble that working pregnant women go through. So yes, what Radhika Gupta's boss told her, the bare minimum, was in fact worthy of appreciation.

Views expressed by the author are their own

Pregnancy Working mothers Women at workplace maternty leave in India Paternity Break