SBI withdraws rule to not hire pregnant woman after facing severe pushback

The revised guidelines for recruitment of employees state that women who are over three months pregnant will be considered “temporarily unfit”, drawing flak from many corners.
State Bank of India sign board
State Bank of India sign board
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After the State Bank of India’s (SBI) new fitness standards for pregnant women were slammed by a section of people, the bank has said that the new rules will be withdrawn. In a statement, SBI clarified that the guidelines were “intended to provide clarity on various health parameters where instructions were not clear or were very old.” It added that” 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 revised guidelines for recruitment of employees or promoters state that women who are over three months pregnant will be considered “temporarily unfit”, and that they can join the bank four months after childbirth. These rules will be in effect from April 1, the bank said. The move drew flak from several corners, who dubbed the rule as discriminatory.  “In some sections of the media, the revision in norms in this regard has been interpreted as discriminatory against women,” the SBI said in its statement, adding that women make up 25% of the bank’s work force. It also stated that in the pandemic, as per the government’s instructions, pregnant employees were exempted from going to office. As per the health fitness rules currently in place, women candidates who are up to six months pregnant are allowed to join the bank.

Many politicians and employees have criticised the new rules. In a letter to the SBI chairman, Madurai MP Su Venkatesan said that the ‘instructions are against the principle of Constitution, which guarantees equality under Article 14, 15 and 16’. He also added that it was ‘nothing but reflection of patriarchal mindset of the SBI management and not consonant with the ideas of gender justice hardwon rights of the struggles of social reform movements and women organisations’, and demanded the withdrawal of the rules. He also wrote to Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman regarding the matter. CPI Rajya Sabha MP Binoy Viswam also wrote to the Finance Minister seeking the withdrawal of the rules, stating that it “undermines women's rights."

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