Maternity Amendment Bill: The Indian Lok Sabha today 9th March, 2017 passed the  Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Bill, 2016 which was meant to increase the maternity benefit to woman covered under the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 from 12 weeks to 26 weeks up to two surviving children in order to allow the mother to take care of the child during her most formative stage, providing maternity benefit of 12 weeks to Commissioning mother and Adopting mother, facilitate “work from home” to a mother with mutual consent of the employee and the employer, making mandatory in respect of establishment having fifty or more employees , to have the facility of crèche either individually or as a shared common facility within such distance as may be prescribed by rules & also to allow four visits to the crèche by the woman daily, including the interval for rest allowed to her and every establishment to intimate in writing and electronically to every woman at the time of her initial appointment about the benefits available under the Act.

The bill was presented in the Lok Sabha by the Minister of State (IC) for Labour and Employment, Shri Bandaru Dattatreya. This can be termed as the biggest womens day gift to pregnant women and working women , many of whom who has to join her job immediatly after giving birth to a child.

The Maternity Benefit Amendment Bill, 2016 was already been passed by the Rajya Sabha on 11th August,2016. These changes will have major impact on the health, well-being and growth of the future generation in the Country. It will have positive impact on women’s participation in labour force and will improve the work- life balance of the women workers. The Maternity Benefits (Amendment) Act, 2016 will come into the force only after the President’s assent.

Highlights of the women’s Amendment Bill and how the maternity bill will help the working women.

  1. Women working in the organized sector will now be entitled to a paid maternity leave of 26 weeks currently it is 12 weeks.
  2. This bill passed in Parliament on Thursday will help benefit about 1.8 million women.
  3. The new law will apply to all establishments having 10 or more people.
  4. The entitlement will be for only up to first two children and for third child, the entitlement will be for only 12 weeks.
  5. The Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Bill, 2016 was passed by the Lok Sabha on Thursday; months after the Rajya Sabha approved the measure that takes 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.
  6. The bill also provides 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. In case of surrogate mother 12-week period of maternity leave be given and will be calculated from the date the child is handed over to the adoptive or biological mother.
  7. The Bill also requires every establishment with 50 or more employees to provide crche (baby day care) facilities within a prescribed distance. The woman will be allowed four visits to the creche in a day. This will include her interval for rest.
  8. 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.
  9. The central government is already amended its service rules and is providing 26 weeks maternity leaves to its employees.
  10. Women’s working in Special Economic Zones (SEZs) would be entitled to all benefits of the legislation.

Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya said while framing the rules, the government would try to ensure that maximum benefits reach to a pregnant women. He said "This is my humble gift to women, a day after the world celebrated the International Women's Day,"

The Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 as well 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.

Taking a note that labour is in the Concurrent List of the Constitution, the Dattatreya appealed to the state governments to play an active role to ensure that all benefits reach to a pregnant women.

Indian women will get more maternity leave than what is provided in developed countries like Japan, Germany, the United Kingdom and South Korea, said Bandaru.

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.

About The Author

Chetan Sharma is an Indian fact-checker and news writer, writing news for Ayupp since 2014.

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