Women employees in the organized sector will now get six months of paid maternity leave, more than double the entitlement so far, after the Lok Sabha on 9 March amended the law on maternity benefits. The labour force participation rate (LFPR) in India is around 40%, but for females, it is only 22.5%. The gap in male-female LFPR is such that the LFPR for rural women above 15 years is only 35.8%, while for rural males it is more than double at 81.3%, according to a 2015 research paper by the government policy think tank NITI Aayog.
The Bill seeks to amend the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 to provide for the following:-
(i)Maternity leave available to the working women to be increased from 12 weeks to 26 weeks for the first two children.
(ii)Maternity leave for children beyond the first two will continue to be 12 weeks.
(iii)Maternity leave of 12 weeks to be available to mothers adopting a child below the age of three months as well as to the “commissioning mothers”. The commissioning mother has been defined as biological mother who uses her egg to create an embryo planted in any other woman.
(iv) Every establishment with more than 50 employees to provide for crèche facilities for working mothers and such mothers will be permitted to make four visits during working hours to look after and feed the child in the crèche.
(v)The employer may permit a woman to work from home if it is possible to do so.
(vi) Every establishment will be required to make these benefits available to the women from the time of her appointment.
Besides working women, the move will also be beneficial for children’s health. “This will enable them (women) to exclusively breast-feed the child for 6 months, which is critical for the good health of the child. The mother will also be able to take care of her own health and fully recuperate before she returns to work. This benefit will be available for two children,” Union child development minister Maneka Gandhi said in an online post.