Indian law grants women working in the organized sector paid maternity leave of 26 weeks. This limit was earlier 12 weeks, it was increased to 26 in 2017. The Act is applicable to all establishments which are factories, mines, plantations, Government establishments, shops and establishments under the relevant applicable legislation, or any other establishment as may be notified by the Central Government. Under the Maternity Benefit Amendment Act, this benefit could be availed by women for a period extending up to a maximum of 8 weeks before the expected delivery date and the remaining time can be availed post-childbirth. For women who are expecting after having 2 children, the duration of paid maternity leave shall be 12 weeks (i.e., 6 weeks pre and 6 weeks post expected date of delivery).
That is the gist of the policy, now how do you prepare for it?
The preparation is two-fold at least: at work and in your personal life
At work, here are the things you must keep in mind:
1. Work with your team members and supervisor to plan how things will move forward once you go on leave
2. Accept the fact that someone else may have to take up your role; mentor someone who can fill your shoes
3. Since this is a long break, the usual disconnect may not be the best idea: keep an eye on the mails. You do not want to be left out of the loop for six months and then come back t start over as if you never left.
4. Plan your comeback in a gradual fashion, try picking up on small tasks by the third month and keep in touch with your team, so that they feel that you are still the diligent team member/leader than you were before going on leave
5. Once you are back you may have to work on building the trust and relationships anew, things may have changed while you were away, some professionals may have left, new people may have joined. It is best to approach the situation with an open mind.
At home or in your personal life here are the things you must keep in mind:
1. The leave is focused on the mother as much as the baby, take the time to rest and recover from the experience of child-birth. Your body goes through a lot when you give birth, take the time to heal
2. Share tasks with your spouse and family. Though child-rearing is still looked upon as the task of women primarily that is not the ideal condition. All family members should pitch in.
3. You can always choose to be a full-time mother and resign from your job. But no one should be pressured into putting their papers down. Remember that the job is also an important aspect of your life.
4. Before the leave starts, plan on how the baby will be taken care of once you join work.
Also, please bear in mind that the six months leave is the maximum that is offered by the companies, you can always choose to be on leave for fewer days if that is what you need. On the other hand, companies often provide flexibility to new mothers in terms of remote login etc.
Work with your company and family to find the most optimal path.