By giving both parents the same benefit to care for a new child, the expectation is that women won’t be unfairly penalized with lower pay.
India’s well-known technology startup Zomato took an important step last week in trying to narrow one of the widest gender pay gaps in the world. The food delivery operator will offer men paid parental leave of six months, the same amount of time that women are legally allowed to take off from work when they have children. Chief Executive Officer Deepinder Goyal said an unequal parental leave policy is one of the reasons India has a lack of women in leadership positions and the “myopic view of primary caregiving” alienates half of the workforce.
India made it mandatory last year to give women 26 weeks of paid maternity leave, making it one of the most progressive policies in the world. But it also sparked concerns that rising business costs would discourage firms from hiring women, with one survey estimating as many as 1.8 million job losses. By giving both parents the same benefit to care for a new child, the expectation is that women won’t be unfairly penalized with lower pay.
India had the biggest disparity in average hourly wages between men and women out of 73 countries in the International Labour Organisation’s Global Wage Report 2018/19. At 34.5%, the pay gap is more than double the global average, according to the report. Zomato’s high-profile move may bring more attention to the issue and prompt other companies to follow with better parental benefits.
“Sooner or later, other companies are likely to emulate this move,” said Vidisha Mishra, an associate fellow at Observer Research Foundation, a think-tank in New Delhi. “But let’s be clear, having the right to take paid parental leave does not necessitate that men will take them.” It’s too soon to assess whether this could have an impact on the gender pay gap, “however it’s a start in changing dominant organizational cultures,” she said.