The Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Bill, 2016 was introduced in Rajya Sabha on August 11, 2016 and is on sail through the Lok Sabha in the winter session of Parliament. The Bill amends the Maternity Benefits Act, 1961. This Act regulates the employment of women during the period of child birth, and provides maternity benefits. The said amendments are made within the provisions related to the duration and applicability of maternity leave and other facilities to all establishments employing ten or more people, after it get passed. The provisions in the bill is available for both public and private sector.
A research done by McKinsey & Company; today women contribute only 17% to India’s GDP against a global average of 37%. A study done by Booz and Company estimates that if men and women in India were to be equally employed, its GDP could go up by 27%. The participation of women is less, if compared with men in the economy today is due to multiple social issues. For instance, many women have to leave work; the moment they become mothers, a gender gap prevailing in society and few others.
What the bill provides
The concerned amendments made in the Bill with a comparison to previous one; provides more relaxation for women employee within their respective work places, when they actually looked-for it.
1. Duration of Maternity Leaves have increased from twelve (12) weeks to twenty six weeks (26) and should not be availed before eight weeks from the date of expected delivery. The benefit of twelve weeks will remain same for a woman who has two or more children as stated in the Act. According to bill, twelve (12) weeks of maternity leaves for a woman who legally adopts a child below three months old and to a commissioning mother. These leaves will be calculated from the date, child is handed over to mother.
3. The Bill introduces a provision for a woman to work from home after the period of maternity leave, for a duration that is mutually decided by employer and the woman.
4. It also introduces a provision, where every establishment with more than fifty (50) employees to provide crèche facility and women will be allowed four visits to crèche in a day including her rest period.
5. Every establishment has to intimate in writing or electronically at the time of joining regarding the maternity benefits available to a woman.
India has raised the benchmark by the amendment to the Maternity Benefits Act, 1961. However, there are few concerns regarding the efficacy of bill. Twenty Six (26) weeks leave is not provided to a commissioning woman and for those who legally adopt child. Many working women put career first and then plan for children. The question is, connect between mother and child differ between natural and other mothers.
In India, women participation in the workforce is dismal. Around 90% of women workforce is in unorganized sector. So, does that mean only 10% of women will take the benefit of these amendments?
The countries that has the best record on maternity benefits, is United Kingdom with 39 weeks of paid leaves. With the passage of this bill, India will join the league of 42 countries where maternity leave exceeds 18 weeks.
Though the said new provisions and amendment in existing Act is a historic move, but more needs to be done for women in India.