The amendment introduced under the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Bill 2016 as and when it becomes the law, will prove beneficial to women and make India the third highest provider of paid maternity leave to women employees in the private sector after Canada which provides 50 weeks and Norway which provides 44 weeks of paid maternity leave. The amendments to the Maternity Benefit Act, as set out in the Amendment Bill, were recommended at the 44th session of the Indian Labour Conference held in 2012.
The Maternity Benefit Act 1961 regulates paid maternity leave entitlement and other related benefits for women employed in factories, mines and shops or commercial establishments employing ten or more employees, for certain periods prior to and after childbirth and provides for post-partum care facilities amongst other benefits.
This law is also applicable to charitable organisations / NGOs registered under the Shops & Establishments Act and employing ten or more employees.
Current Status of the Bill
The Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Bill 2016 which seeks to amend the Maternity Benefit Act 1961 was passed by the Lok Sabha (Lower House of Parliament) on 9th March 2017 and was earlier passed by Rajya Sabha (Upper House of Parliament) on 11th August 2016. Subject to Presidential Assent, the Bill will become a Law on and from the date of its publication in the Official Gazette.
CAP will provide further updates once this Bill receives Presidential assent and is published in the Official Gazette. This could happen over the next few weeks.
What does the Bill promise?
Increased Paid Maternity Leave:
- The Bill seeks to increase the duration of maternity leave available for women employees from the existing 12 weeks to 26 weeks.
- Earlier, under the Maternity Benefit Act, this benefit could be availed by women for a period extending up to 6 weeks before the expected delivery date and extending up to 6 weeks after the childbirth. This has now been increased by 8 weeks before the expected date of delivery and remaining 18 weeks to be availed post childbirth.
- For women who are expecting after having 2 children, the duration of paid maternity leave shall continue to be 12 weeks (i.e. 6 weeks pre and 6 weeks post expected date of delivery).
Maternity leave for adoptive and commissioning mothers:
- The Bill extends certain benefits under the Maternity Benefit Act to adoptive mothers as well.
- The MB Bill provides that every woman who adopts a child shall be entitled to 12 weeks of maternity leave, from the date of adoption. Earlier, no such benefits were available to adoptive mothers.
Work from Home option:
- The Bill has introduced an enabling provision relating to “work from home” for women, which may be exercised after the expiry of the 26 weeks’ leave period.
- Depending upon the nature of work, women employees may be able to avail this benefit on terms that are mutually agreed with the employer.
- Though not a statutory entitlement, it provides an encouraging tool to employers to adopt flexibility in the way women employees could function without disrupting the much needed care for their child.
- The Bill makes crèche facility mandatory for every establishment employing 50 or more women.
- Women employees would be permitted to visit the crèche 4 times during the day. However, the Bill is not clear about the period up to which such arrangement could be extended to the concerned woman. This may get clarified under the Rules to be framed pursuant to the new Law coming into force.
The Bill makes it mandatory for employers to educate women about the maternity benefits available to them at the time of their appointment.
Please note what is stated here is not final till this bill will become a law on and from the date of its publication in the Official Gazette. CAP will provide further updates once this Bill receives Presidential assent and is published in the Official Gazette. This could happen over the next few weeks.