HR policy experts say there is very low cognizance of the issue in corporate India currently or even globally. Experts say ‘diversity’ management has been based on representation by gender, sexual orientation, age and people with disabilities among employees only, and not to their families.
Health insurance experts feel the absence of a comprehensive legal framework specifically addressing the rights of and support for caregivers of children with special needs can hinder companies from implementing effective policies.
As a mother of an 8-year-old autistic son, Lucknow-based Ashima Mehta* juggles between work and personal life like no ordinary mother. Since her child is among the high-support cases, she often worries about the child’s future and ability to survive independently despite getting constant support from family members.
Episodic stress, worrying, and caregiving have led to Mehta suffering depression lately, which often impacts her productivity at work. Though she has discussed her problems with managers, they haven’t been able to work out a solution since the company doesn’t extend any support for children with special needs and rather is limited to offering basic maternity benefits.
“I can’t even remember how many times the thought of quitting my job has come to my mind,” Mehta said, adding that it is hard for her to find affordable and trustworthy third-party centres with trained caregivers.
Mehta is among the multitude of working parents who struggle to get support for children with special needs as the discourse around diversity and inclusion is limited to employees only. In fact, radical initiatives like medical support for LGBTQI+ partners and period leaves found their way into the corporate lexicon recently, post-pandemic.
There are very few companies in India, such as Tata Power, Accenture and Cognizant, that offer support to employees of children with special needs. Most recently in February, Procter & Gamble India announced its ‘Lead With Care’ programme to enable employees to avail of early preventive care and treatment for children impacted by specific neurodevelopmental, cognitive, behavioural or physical impairments.