Highlights of The Maternity Benefit Bill

A day after the world celebrated the International Women’s Day, the Parliament passed a bill to increase the maternity leave from 12 weeks to 26 weeks that will benefit about 1.8 million women in India.

The Rajya Sabha had passed the bill in August last year. This measure 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 Bill was moved by Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya in Lower House.

Highlights of The Maternity Benefit Bill

1. Women working in the organised sector will now be entitled to paid maternity leave of 26 weeks, up from 12 weeks, as Lok Sabha on Thursday passed a bill in this regard.

2. The new law will apply to all establishments employing 10 or more people and the entitlement will be for only up to first two children. For third child, the entitlement will be for only 12 weeks.

3. 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.

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.

4. Piloting amendments to the old law, Bandaru Dattatreya said while framing the rules, he would try to ensure that maximum benefits reach the pregnent women. “This is my humble gift to women, a day after the world celebrated the International Women’s Day,” he said after about 4-hour debate during which some members demanded paternity benefits too, arguing that these days most of the children are born in nuclear families where both the father and the mother have to take care of the child.

5. The Bill requires every establishment with 50 or more employees to provide creche facilities within a prescribed distance. The woman will be allowed four visits to the creche in a day. This will include her interval for rest.

6. 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.

7. The central government has already amended its service rules and is providing 26 weeks maternity leaves to its employees.

8. The Minister also clarified women working in Special Economic Zones (SEZs) would be entitled to all benefits of the legislation.

9. Responding to concerns expressed by members that benefits would be restricted to only 10 per cent of women working in organised sector, Dattatreya said the government has taken a host of steps for the welfare of unorganised workers.

10. Indian women will get more maternity leave than what is provided in developed countries like Japan, Germany, the United Kingdom and South Korea.

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