Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Bill 2016 Passed
Post on 11,March 2017   5:00 AM
By - PolyEyes Staff
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The Maternity Benefit Act 1961 protects the employment of women during the pregnancy. Parliament has passed the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Bill, 2016 as LokSabha passed on 9th February, while Rajya Sabha had passed the Bill during the winter session of Parliament.

The amendments will help 1.8 million (approx.) women workforce in organized sector.
India third on the list of countries with most maternity leave, after Canada and Norway where it is 50 weeks and 44 weeks respectively.

The Bill is an amendment to the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961, protects the employment of women and entitles her to full-paid absence from work to take care for her child.

Women working in the organized sector will now be entitled to be paid maternity leave of 26 weeks, up from 12 weeks.

  • The Bill also provides for maternity leave of 12 weeks to mothers adopting a child below the age of three months as well as to commissioning mothers (defined as a biological mother) who uses her egg to have a surrogate child. In such cases, 12-week period of maternity leave will be calculated from the date the child is handed over to the adoptive or commissioning mother.
  • It also makes it mandatory for every establishment with more than 50 employees to provide crche facilities within a prescribed distance. The woman will be allowed four visits to the crche in a day. This will include her interval for rest.
  • The new law will apply to all establishments employing 10 or more people and the entitlement will be for only up to first two children. For third child, the entitlement will be for only 12 weeks.
  • The Bill has 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.
  • The amendments would ensure that full maternal care is provided during the full bloom period and will encourage more women to join the workforce in organized sector.

In 2015, the Law Commission of India recommended the provisions of the 1961 Act should cover all women, including women working in the unorganized sector.

The one good thing about the bill is that it also addresses earlier apprehensions of what would happen to women in the unorganized sector. The Maternity Leave Amendment Bill that was passed on Thursday takes care of them too. The 1961 Act covered women workers who were employed in factories, mines, plantations, shops and establishments with 10 or more employees and any other establishments. But 90 percent of working women in the unorganized sector were not covered by the 1961 Act.

Conclusion: As per ministry of woman and child welfare it’s definitely a remarkable step towards a better environment for working women but it has its own set of hidden anomalies. This indirectly encourages the recruitment to be based on gender preference. The unfortunate truth is that the lopsided unwritten workplace rules inform women that in order to be able to grow their careers, they ought to postpone getting married or planning a family. Leadership tracks don't care much for biology. It isn't uncommon to find women in their late 30s planning families. These women are in the peak of their careers. Thoughthere are laws against discriminatory hiring practices, but it is difficult to prove such discrimination. When an organization decides to hire people and has a choice between male and female candidates, chances are that the former would be preferred because the new policy would mean the woman will take six months of maternity leave.

Apart from maternity, there are umpteen social issues that are hindering establishment of a just environment making situation worse for women to work, say for instance washroom facilities are inadequate for women. These issues definitely need to be focused upon.

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