Maternity leave hike affected women jobs but remedy is there, says Labour Minister Santosh Gangwar

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New Delhi | Published: September 26, 2018 7:16:30 PM

Women employment in the country has been affected adversely due to the increase in maternity leaves under the new law but steps can be taken to correct that, Labour Minister Santosh Gangwar said Wednesday.

Women employment, women jobs,  Santosh Gangwar, increase in maternity leave, Maternity Benefit Act, ESIC“We think that women employment is not increasing due to this reason (Maternity Benefit Act),” the minister told reporters on the sidelines of a FICCI function to give after safety systems awards.

Women employment in the country has been affected adversely due to the increase in maternity leaves under the new law but steps can be taken to correct that, Labour Minister Santosh Gangwar said Wednesday. When asked if the increase in maternity leaves to 26 weeks from 12 weeks earlier had impacted women employment negatively, the minister replied that it has but there was a remedy for that.

“We think that women employment is not increasing due to this reason (Maternity Benefit Act),” the minister told reporters on the sidelines of a FICCI function to give after safety systems awards. Earlier, a report had outlined that the most progressive reforms may make it hard for up to 18 lakh women to find jobs this financial year.

The minister, however, noted that there are provisions in the Act like now women can work from home during the leave period and other measures that can help address the issue. “There is a remedy,” Gangwar stressed. Only 27 per cent of the total workforce in India is women and 14 per cent of the overall women workforce is employed in the formal sector, the bill will significantly hamper the entry of new women into the workforce, the report by staffing solutions provider TeamLease had noted.

The government in March 2018 notified the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act, 2017, that made changes in some of the provisions of an over-55-year-old law entitling certain benefits to women employees. The Act enhances paid maternity leave to 26 weeks from 12 weeks. The new law makes it mandatory for every establishment with 50 or more employees to have the facility of creche within a prescribed distance. The employer is also bound to allow four visits a day to the creche by a woman employee.

The measure took 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. About the employment generation in the country, the minister said that in the last two years, one crore workers were added to social security schemes run by Employees Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) and Employees’ State Insurance Corporation (ESIC).

On creating enabling environment for employment generation by the government he said, “Under the Pradhan Mantri Rojgar Protsahan Yojana(PMRPY), over 87,000 establishments’ 72 lakh employees are benefited during the last two years. The government spent Rs 1,744 crore under this scheme so far.” Under the PMRPY, the government pays entire 12 per cent of basic wage as employer contribution towards social security schemes run by the EPFO for new employees for a period of three years. He also said that over three crore workers have been provided free of cost insurance under Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojana and Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana in last two years. The scheme is expected to benefit over 50 crore population of the country.”

The minister also spoke about the recently launched scheme of Employees State Insurance Corporation where cash relief is directly transferred into bank accounts of insured persons. The minister informed that this scheme will cover 3.2 crore insured persons of ESIC and benefit around 20 lakh persons every year on which an expenditure of Rs 1600 crore would be incurred. The cash benefit is 25 per cent of average wages for 90 days of the insured person under the scheme. The minister said that the government is doing all those efforts which can improve working and living conditions of the workers in the country.

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