The government is set to enhance maternity benefit to 26 weeks from the current 12 through an executive order, labour and employment minister Bandaru Dattareya said on Thursday.
“We have a huge task in hand, but we can’t pass Bills without reaching a consensus. However, we have decided to go ahead with some of the pro-labour Bills through executive orders. We have done it in the case of minimum wage of Rs 10,000 for contract workers. We will do it for extending the maternity benefit as well,” the minister told FE in an interview.
Dattatreya said maternity leave for private sector workers would be extended to 26 weeks from the current 12 weeks. The executive order would come soon. Suggestions were there from the ministry of women and child development to enhance the maternity benefit to 28 weeks under the Maternity Benefits Act, 1961.
Though the Act mandates only three months’ leave, many private organisations give the newly mothers’ extension to heal themselves and take care of the newborn. Apart from humane angle, the move also helps in enhancing employees’ loyalty to the organisation.
Out of 48 crore workers in India, only 18% belong to the organised sector while the rest work in the unorganised sector. The move would help many mothers to continue with their job after the delivery.
Dattatreya said many other proposals are there with the government to go ahead with reforms through executive orders, but he refused to elaborate. However, he said the delay in getting crucial labour Bills passed is not always in the hands of the government since reforms are a cumbersome process in which all the stakeholders are to be taken on board.
As part of its labour reform proposals, touted to be the biggest since the Independence, the labour minister has embarked on amalgamating 44 extant central labour Acts into four codes without success due to delay in reaching consensus with trade unions and industry.
The minister, however, said two of the codes — code on industrial relations and code on wages — are likely to be tabled in the monsoon session of Parliament for discussion and passage.
The code on industrial relations proposes to empower establishments employing up to 300 workers to lay off without government approval from the current 100, making trade unions tougher and bar outsiders to take leadership roles in trade unions in the organised sector. The code on wages seeks to make national minimum wages mandatory.
Tripartite mechanism for codes on social security and working conditions and safety would be completed by June, following which these would be sent for the law ministry’s vetting and subsequently to Parliament for passage.