After facing criticism from various quarters, the country's largest lender State Bank of India (SBI) on Saturday decided to suspend its circular on recruitment of pregnant women.
SBI recently reviewed its 'Fitness Standards for Recruitment in the Bank', including norms for Pregnant Women candidates. Under the new rules, a woman candidate with more than three months pregnancy will be considered "temporarily unfit" and can join the bank within four months after delivery.
The move elicited flak from various quarters, including from some MPs, bank unions and the Delhi Commission for Women.
In view of the public sentiments, the bank has decided to keep the revised instructions regarding recruitment of pregnant women candidates in abeyance and continue with the existing instructions in the matter, SBI said in a statement.
In its latest medical fitness guidelines, the bank said a candidate would be considered fit in case of pregnancy which is less than three months.
"However, if pregnancy is of more than 3 months, she will be considered temporarily unfit and she may be allowed to join within 4 months after delivery of child," as per the medical fitness and ophthalmological standards for new recruits and promotees dated December 31, 2021.
Earlier, women candidates with up to 6 months of pregnancy were allowed to join the bank subject to various conditions. The conditions include furnishing a certificate from a specialist gynaecologist that her taking up bank's employment at that stage is in no way likely to interfere with her pregnancy or the normal development of the foetus, or is not likely to cause her miscarriage or otherwise to adversely affect her health.
Blaming a section of media for interpreting the revised norms as discriminatory against women, SBI said the revised guidelines were intended to provide clarity on various health parameters where instructions were not clear or were very old.
MPs including Binoy Viswam and Priyanka Chaturvedi wrote letters to Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman demanding immediate withdrawal of medical fitness circular issued by SBI pertaining to the guidelines for the recruitment of pregnant women.
"It undermines women's rights," said CPI Rajya Sabha MP Viswam in his letter to the finance minister, while Shiv Sena Rajya Sabha MP Priyanka Chaturvedi termed the guidelines as "extremely discriminatory in nature" and debilitates the progress made to empower women.
"The new proposed guideline delays the process of recruitment and promotion for women. This comes at a time when the state of India's female workforce has worsened. Such regressive and sexist guidelines will exacerbate the exclusion of women as well as the inequality faced by them," Chaturvedi said in her letter.
The Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) earlier in the day issued a notice to SBI seeking withdrawal of its new rules wherein a woman who is over three months pregnant will be considered "temporarily unfit" and she may be allowed to join within four months after delivery.
All India State Bank Of India Employees' Association General Secretary K S Krishna had claimed that a similar move was made in 2009 which after protest was taken back.
SBI claimed that it has always been proactive towards the care and empowerment of its women employees who now constitute around 25 per cent of the workforce.