Parliament clears bill to raise maternity leave to 26 weeks; here’s all you need to know

By: | Published: March 10, 2017 1:44 AM

The Parliament has passed a bill stating that women will be entitled to paid maternity leave of 26 weeks, up from 12 weeks.

While the law applies to all establishments with 10 or more employees, the entitlement will be for only up to first two children. (Reuters)

A day after the International Women’s Day, in a major benefit for about 1.8 million women working in the organised sector, the Parliament has passed a bill stating that women will be entitled to paid maternity leave of 26 weeks, up from 12 weeks. While the law applies to all establishments with 10 or more employees, the entitlement will be for only up to first two children. For third child, the entitlement will be for only 12 weeks.

“This is my humble gift to women, a day after the world celebrated the International Women’s Day,” Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya 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.

With these changes, India would rank high among the nations providing maternity benefit to women, he said. Indian women will get more maternity leave than what is provided in developed countries like Japan, Germany, the United Kingdom and South Korea, the Minister said. Participating in the debate, Sushmita Dev (Congress) said since amendments raise the period of maternity leave to 26 weeks from the present 12 weeks, it could act as a deterrent for the private sector to employ women workforce.

Here are the five key facts to know:

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1) 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.

2) The Bill 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.

3) 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.

4) Observing that labour is in the Concurrent List of the Constitution, the minister appealed to the state governments to play an active role to ensure that all benefits reach women. He said the amendments were “progressive” in nature and would have “positive impact” on women participation and improve their “work life balance”.

5) The central government has already amended its service rules and is providing 26 weeks maternity leaves to its employees. The Minister also clarified women working in Special Economic Zones (SEZs) would be entitled to all benefits of the legislation.

(With inputs from agencies)

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