After heavy criticism from rights organisations, the State Bank of India (SBI) withdrew its recent rules that called pregnant women “temporarily unfit” for employment on January 29, 2022.
Last month, the SBI issued controversial guidelines that stated women with more than three months of pregnancy must be prevented from joining service until at least four months after delivery. The announcement brought on the ire of All India Democratic Women’s Association, All India Progressive Women’s Association, All India Bank Employees Association, the Centre of Indian Trade Unions and the Delhi Commission for Women. The latter even issued a notice against the ‘anti-women’ rule demanding its immediate withdrawal.
State Bank of India seems to have issued guidelines preventing women who are over 3 months pregnant from joining service & 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. pic.twitter.com/mUtpoCHCWq
— Swati Maliwal (@SwatiJaiHind) January 29, 2022
In the notice, the Commission called the move illegal and a “serious matter” since it dismisses maternity benefits under the Code of Social Security 2020. “It discriminates on the basis of sex which is against the fundamental rights provided under the constitution,” it said.
Following this, the SBI published a formal statement wherein it said that the revised guidelines were intended to provide clarity on various health parameters. While it agreed that the instructions might have been “very old”, the bank said that it is proactive towards the care and empowerment of women employees, who constitute around 25 percent of its workforce.
“During the Covid-19 period, as per government instructions, pregnant women employees were exempted from attending office and allowed to work from home. However, in view of public sentiments, SBI has decided to keep the revised instructions regarding recruitment of women candidates in abeyance and continue with the existing instructions in the matter,” said the statement, although it failed to explain the temporary nature of the guideline.
Regardless, the move was interpreted as a major win by protesting organisations.
SBI has put in abeyance its discriminatory recruitment guidelines!
Congratulations to the Working Class movement!
We shall fight We shall win! pic.twitter.com/5KOyzkHaCF
— CITU CENTER (@cituhq) January 29, 2022
SBI withholds its instructions regarding recruitment of pregnant women candidates, after stiff oppositions from AIBEA & various quarters-TMBEU
Oppose PBE pic.twitter.com/meJctpRWZj
— tmbeu – Tamilnad Mercantile Bank Employees’ Union (@TmbeuU) January 29, 2022
According to the CITU, the bank had previously announced similar sexist measures in 2009 when it tried to prevent the recruitment of pregnant women and asked for their menstrual history before joining. Organisations condemned this move for harming candidates who went through due procedure only to suffer a negative impact on their position, salary and career.