The Maternity Benefit Act was introduced in 1961, with the objective of regulating the employment of women in certain establishments for certain periods before and after child-birth and to provide for maternity benefit and certain other benefits.
However, a bill for amending the Act, was introduced in the Lok Sabha, on August 11, 2016 by the Minister of Labor and Employment, Mr. Bandaru Dattatreya. This amendment is applicable to all establishments employing 10 or more people, and will help 1.8 million women in the organized sector. It is expected that the amendment will be passed in the Lok Sabha in the Winter Session, and receive Presidential assent thereafter.
The amendment recognizes the economic rationale of women’s participation in India’s economy. A plethora of studies have highlighted the importance of involving half of India’s population in measurable economic activities.
Highlights of the latest Amendment Bill
In order to protect employment related issues of women during the time of her maternity the following amendments are introduced;
- As per the Act the maximum period for which any woman is entitled to maternity benefit is 12 weeks. However, according to the bill, a woman with two surviving children shall be entitled to maternity benefits for 26 weeks. However, for a woman with more than two children the period for maternity benefits shall continue to be 12 weeks.
- The bill also provides 12 weeks Maternity Benefit to a ‘Commissioning mother’ and ‘Adopting mother’. Commissioning mothers are biological mothers who use surrogacy method for childbirth and adoptive mothers are those who legally adopt a baby below 3 months of age.
- Mandatory provision of Creche – A mandatory crèche facility will have to be provided by an Organizations with more than 50 women employee. Mothers will be allowed 4 visits in a day to the crèche including her break time.
- Facilitate “Work from home” – The bill introduces a provision where post the 26-week maternity leave, the employer may permit “Work from Home” for the new mother.
- Informing women employees of the right to maternity leave: The Bill introduces a provision which requires every establishment to intimate a woman at the time of her appointment of the maternity benefits available to her. Such communication must be in writing and electronically.