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The Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Bill, 2016

Enactment of Maternity bill is a great support of females who are working in organizations. It is well observed in Indian society that there is rise in nuclear families and with that social and family support for a young parent is declining. Because of new social structure, more and more young and liberal females have to quit from job which deteriorate the status of females as well as major loss to the society.

To cater the need of all organized formal sectors covering women working in both public and private sectors, Rajya Sabha passed Maternity Benefit Act Amendment Bill on August 11, 2016, increasing the period of maternity leave from 12 to 26 weeks. Although the bill is pending in Lok Sabha. Major ground for amending the Act, which has been clearly explained by the labour minister in different occasions, is to address the major decline in work participation of women in present scenario.

Though maternity amendment bill is advantageous to women in organized sector, many experts indicate that the amended act will not have much impact on women workforces in the informal sector. Women from lower income group, who are mostly concentrated in the informal sector, are not eligible even for a single day of paid maternity leave.

Therefore females working in the Unorganized Sector will not be benefitted from Maternity Benefit Act Amendment Bill 2016.

The Union Cabinet, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, gave its ex-post facto approval for amendments to the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 by introducing the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Bill 2016. The modifications are as under:

  • Increasing maternity leave from 12 weeks to 26 weeks for two surviving children and 12 weeks for more than two children.
  • 12 weeks maternity leave to a 'Commissioning mother' and 'Adopting mother' and mandatory provision of creche in respect of establishment having 50 or more employees. Another alternative is for a few firms to establish a common facility within a prescribed distance. The employer will have to allow the mother to have four visits to the crèche which will include the interval of rest allowed to women employees.
  • Nursing mothers may be allowed to work from home beyond the 26 week maternity leave period. However, this depends on the organisation she works for.
  • This bill facilitate ‘Work from home’: The Bill presents a provision that an employer may permit a woman to work from home. This would apply if the nature of work assigned to the woman permits her to work from home. 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 Maternity Benefit Act, 1961, protects the occupation of women during the time of maternity and entitles them of a full paid absence from work to take care for the child. The amendments will help 18 lakh women workforce in organised sector.

According to Maneka Gandhi, Union minister for women and child development, “Maternity leave is not a holiday, but a very stressful time for the woman. Majority of females are waiting for this bill.

Salient features of bill:

  • The Bill aims at increasing women’s participation in the workforce which is “decreasing day-by-day.”
  • The provisions of bill apply to every establishment employing ten or more persons and include mines and factories.
  • No employer can remove any woman employee on the ground of pregnancy. It is a mandatory for every establishment having 50 or more employees to have a creche.
  • There is also a provision in the bill to provide 12 weeks maternity benefit to a commissioning mother and adopting mother (adopting a new-born aged below three). In this case commissioning mother is defined as a biological mother who uses her egg to create an embryo implanted in another woman.
  • However, a woman who has two or more children will continue to get only 12 weeks maternity leave. With this India will be in third position in the world in terms of the number of weeks allowed for maternity leave behind Norway (44) and Canada (50).

Important facts for amendment of maternity bill:

  • Maternal care to the Child during early childhood is critical for the development of the child.
  • The 44th, 45th and 46th Indian Labour Conference acclaimed enhancement of Maternity Benefits to 24 weeks.
  • Ministry of Women & Child Development recommended to improve Maternity Benefit to 8 months.
  • In Multilateral consultations, all stake holders, in general maintained the amendment proposal.

It is stated by many experts that The Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Bill, 2016 is a progressive bill. India has raised the standard by the amendment to the Maternity Benefit Act. Unquestionably, this initiative of Rajya sabha is considered as great in favour of working females in organized sector. The intent of the Maternity Benefit Act, is to regulate the occupation of women employees in some establishments for definite periods before and after child birth and provides for maternity and other benefits. But the amended Act, however, is not applicable to all enterprises, but only those employing at least ten workers.