The Government’s passing of the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Bill, 2016 is a step aimed at benefitting the 1.9 million women in the organised sector, as well as increasing the strength of the working women force.
The Government is of the view that the maternal care to the child during early childhood is crucial for growth and development of the child.
As per the proposed amendments, maternity leaves for women working in both private and public sector will be enhanced to 26 weeks as against the existing 12 weeks.
However, those women employees who already have two or more children will get 12 weeks of leave only.
The amended bill also propose 12 weeks of maternity leave to commissioning mothers who use surrogates to bear a child as well as to working women adopting a baby below the age of three months.
At present, the Maternity Benefit Act does not provide any maternity leave for commissioning or adopting mothers.
The amended Act have an enabling provision that would allow nursing moms to work from home even after 26 weeks of maternity leave, depending upon their job profile.
But, work-from-home option will be available where the nature of work assigned to the employee permits her to do so.
The woman employee and her employer have to mutually agree on the duration of the `work from home’ arrangement.
It has become mandatory for firms with 50 employees to have creches individually or a few firms can set up a common facility within a prescribed distance.
The employer will have to allow four visits to the creche which will include the interval of rest allowed to women employees.
With the passage of this bill, India will join the league of 42 countries where maternity leave exceeds 18 weeks.
The International Labour Organization (ILO) recommends a minimum standard maternity leave of 14 weeks, though it encourages countries to increase it to at least 18 weeks.