Women working in the organised sector will now be entitled to paid maternity leave of 26 weeks, up from 12 weeks, as Parliament passed a Bill on Thursday in this regard. The Bill is expected to benefit about 1.8 million women.
The new law will apply to all establishments employing 10 or more people and the entitlement will only apply up to the first two children. For third child, the entitlement will be for only 12 weeks.
What the Bill Entails
The Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Bill, 2016 was passed by the Lok Sabha on Thursday, months after the Rajya Sabha approved the measure that takes India to the third position in terms of the number of weeks for maternity leave after Canada and Norway where it is 50 weeks and 44 weeks, respectively.
The Maternity Benefit Act, 1961, protects the employment of women during the time of her maternity and entitles her full paid absence from work, to take care for her child. With these changes, India would rank high among the nations providing maternity benefit to women, Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya said.
Indian women will now get more maternity leave than what is provided in developed countries like Japan, Germany, the United Kingdom and South Korea, he further said.
Other Things the Bill Provides
Among other things, the Bill provides for 12 weeks of maternity leave to a woman who legally adopts a child below three months of age and a commissioning mother (defined as a biological mother) who uses her egg to have a surrogate child.
In such cases, 12-week period of maternity leave will be calculated from the date the child is handed over to the adoptive or commissioning mother.
The Bill also requires every establishment with 50 or more employees to provide crèche facilities within a prescribed distance. The woman will be allowed four visits to the crèche in a day. This will include her interval for rest.
It has also made a provision under which an employer can permit a woman to work from home, if the nature of work assigned permits her to do so. This option can be availed of, after the period of maternity leave, for a duration that is mutually decided by the employer and the woman.
Congress Terms it a ‘Wasted’ Chance to Reach Gender Parity
The Congress hit out at the government for not giving recognition to paternity leave in the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Bill, 2016 and termed it a “wasted” opportunity in bringing gender parity at workplace.
“The Congress party condemns the fact that there is no recognition of paternity leave and this move fails to initiate attitudinal changes towards perception of women as bread earners. Such a move by the government stereotypes women into their traditional gender roles.”
The opposition party also demanded that the government include a non-discrimination clause in the bill so no person is discriminated against in employment for having availed any parental benefits.