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Post backlash, SBI pulls back circular on norms for hiring of pregnant women

🔴 In the notice, the panel sought a copy of the new guidelines as well as a copy of the similar rules operational before this. It has also sought an action taken report in the matter.

By: PTI | New Delhi |
Updated: January 30, 2022 12:25:14 am
State Bank of India (SBI), the country's largest lender, could not immediately be reached for comment. (File)

Faced with widespread criticism from several quarters, including a notice from the Delhi Commission for Women (DCW), the State Bank of India (SBI) on Saturday withdrew its controversial circular stipulating new conditions on recruitment of pregnant women.

“In view of the public sentiments, SBI has decided to keep the revised instructions regarding recruitment of pregnant women candidates in abeyance and continue with the existing instructions in the matter,” the bank said. Earlier in the day, the DCW issued a notice to the lender seeking withdrawal of its new rules and details of the scheme.

An SBI circular dated December 31 said if pregnancy is of more than 3 months, the candidate will be considered temporarily unfit and she may be allowed to join within 4 months after delivery of child. In case of pregnancy which is less than three months, the candidate will be considered fit, the circular had said.

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In its statement Saturday, the bank said, “it has recently reviewed the various Fitness Standards for Recruitment in the bank, including norms for pregnant women candidates.”

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According to SBI, the revised guidelines were intended to provide clarity on various health parameters where instructions were not clear or were very old. “In some sections of the media, the revision in norms in this regard has been interpreted as discriminatory against women.”

In its notice to SBI, DCW said, “This is a serious matter. This action of the bank appears to be discriminatory and illegal as it’s contrary to the maternity benefits provided under the ‘The Code of Social Security 2020’. Further, it discriminates on the basis of sex which is against the fundamental rights under the Constitution.”

“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,” DCW Chairperson Swati Maliwal tweeted.

Several MPs too protested against the SBI’s controversial letter. “Insulting pregnancy is a crime towards motherhood. It is a discrimination against women. SBI guidelines in this regard is anti-constitutional. Finance Minister should intervene and withdraw the discriminatory circular with immediate effect,” CPI MP Binoy Viswam said.

Shiv Sena MP Priyanka Chaturvedi tweeted, “The guideline is extremely discriminatory in nature and debilitates the progress made to empower the women of the country.”

DMK MP Kanimozhi said, “SBI’s new set of rules that prevent women, pregnant over 3 months from joining the workforce is highly condemnable. Apart from being inconsiderate and discriminatory.”

As per existing rules of SBI, pregnant women candidates are eligible to be appointed in the bank up to six months of pregnancy, provided they furnish a certificate from a specialist gynaecologist that their taking up the bank’s employment at that stage is in no way likely to interfere with their pregnancy or the normal development of the foetus, or is not likely to cause her miscarriage or otherwise to adversely affect their health.

The bank said it has always been proactive towards the care and empowerment of its women employees who now constitute around 25% of our workforce. “During the COVID period, as per Government instructions, pregnant women employees were exempted from attending office and allowed to work from home.”

As per the SBI Sustainability Report, women make up over 25.28 per cent of SBI’s total workforce, and women head over 3,500 of its branches. Its total staff strength is estimated to be over 2.40 lakh.

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