Pregnant women ‘unfit’: SBI needs to explain how it makes such guidelines

If pregnancy is of more than 3 months, women will be considered temporarily unfit, states SBI guideline

It looks like State Bank of India has courted trouble with its latest medical guidelines. As per the banking major’s medical guidelines, which came out on December 31, …if pregnancy is of more than three months, women will be considered temporarily unfit and they may be allowed to join within four months after delivery of child.

This clause comes as a bolt from the blue for women who have been offered employment by the SBI. Calling women with more than three months of pregnancy as ‘temporarily unfit’ has spurred the ire of men and women alike. Stopping women who are over three-month pregnant from joining work is being seen as discrimination.

SBI norm ‘discriminatory and illegal’

The SBI norm is not just discriminatory, but illegal too, believes the Delhi Commission for Women. And the women’s body has shot off a notice to State Bank of India seeking an explanation on what makes it stop women who are over three-month pregnant from joining work.

Delhi Commission for Women Chairperson Swati Maliwal also took to Twitter stating that the State Bank of India’s action calling pregnant women “temporarily unfit” is discriminatory and illegal as it could affect maternity benefits provided under the law.

According to the Maliwal, “State Bank of India seems to have issued guidelines preventing women who are over 3 months pregnant from joining service and have termed them as ‘temporarily unfit’. This is both discriminatory and illegal. We have issued a notice to them seeking withdrawal of this anti-women rule.” She added that the SBI move comes despite the women having been selected through due process.

The SBI circular also states that these women “may be allowed to join within four months after delivery of child.”

DCW notice seeks explanation

The DCW has taken up the issue as a very serious matter, and it has added that the action of the bank appears to be discriminatory and illegal as it’s contrary to maternity benefits provided under the Code of Social Security, 2020. In this context, SBI would have to furnish an explanation as to how the controversial guidelines had been formulated. The DCW has also demanded knowing the officials who approved them.

It needs to be noted the State Bank of India earlier had norms that allowed women with six-months of pregnancy to join the bank, though with certain clauses. The conditions had then stated that the women who are joining work need to submit a certificate from a gynaecologist that her taking up employment at that stage would not affect her health.

With the SBI guidelines now being actively debated on public space, it remains to be seen how the Indian banking behemoth would respond to the issue. For the bank, the guidelines might have been formulated with the women’s health as priority. But the wordings have come as extremely discriminatory. And therein lies the problem.

After having offered employment, pregnant women are now at the mercy of the guidelines issued by their employer. With the DCW seeking to know the bank’s explanation by Tuesday, we expect that some kind of relief could come to the pregnant women who have been provided jobs by the bank.

Sanjeev Ramachandran

A journalist with 23 years of experience, Sanjeev has worked with reputed media houses such as Business Standard, The Ne More »
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