The much awaited transformation
in the Labour Law empowering women employment, the Maternity Benefit
(Amendment) Bill was passed by Rajya Sabha on 11th August, 2016. While the bill
is yet to be passed in Lok Sabha. The bill highlights the increasing the period
of maternity leave from 12 to 26 weeks for Organized Formal Sectors.
The Bill amends the Maternity
Benefit Act, 1961. The Act regulates the
employment of women during the period of child birth, and provides maternity
benefits. The Act applies to factory,
mines, plantations, shops and other establishments. The Bill amends provisions related to the
duration and applicability of maternity leave, and other facilities.
Highlights of the Maternity
Benefit (Amendment) Bill, 2016
Duration of Maternity Leave – The Act states
that every woman will be entitled to maternity benefit of 12 weeks. The Bill increases
duration to 26 weeks.
Under the Act, the maternity benefit should not
be availed before six weeks from the date of expected delivery, the bill changes
to eight weeks.
In case of a woman who has two or more children,
the maternity benefit will continue to be 12 weeks, which cannot be availed
before six weeks from the date of the expected delivery.
Maternity leave for adoptive and commissioning
mothers: The Bill introduces a provision to grant 12 weeks of maternity leave
to: (i) a woman who legally adopts a child below three months of age; and (ii)
a commissioning mother. A commissioning
mother is defined as a biological mother who uses her egg to create an embryo
implanted in another woman.
The 12-week period of maternity benefit will be
calculated from the date the child is handed over to the adoptive or
Option to work from home: The Bill introduces a
provision that states 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.
Crèche facilities: The Bill introduces a
provision which requires every establishment with 50 or more employees to
provide crèche facilities within a prescribed distance. The woman will be allowed four visits to the
crèche in a day. This will include her
interval for rest.
Informing women employees of the right to
maternity leave: The Bill introduces a provision which requires every
establishment to intimate a woman at the time of her appointment of the
maternity benefits available to her.
Such communication must be in writing and electronically.
Need for the Transformation in
With the rise of Nuclear family
concept in India and with that the social and family support is decreasing for
young parents. This has become one of the major reason why more and more young
and progressive women have to give up their career, which in turn proves a huge
loss to society. Thus, the government taking into consideration this fact has
made provision to increase the maternity leave from 12 weeks to 26 weeks for
all organized formal sectors covering women working in both public and private
However, one such drawback which
can be seen is that the women in the Unorganized Sector won’t be benefitted
from Maternity Benefit Act Amendment Bill, 2016. So, the women who work from
home (whether they are freelancers or work at small establishments like rolling
bidis etc) and work without a fixed employer are left out. Yes, working women
without fixed employer have been left out from the bill completely.
The amendment recognises the
economic rationale of women's participation in India’s economy. Innumerable
studies have highlighted the importance of involving half of India’s population
in measurable economic activities. Today, women contribute only 17 percent to
India’s GDP against a global average of 37 percent (source: McKinsey).
Countries like Norway, Sweden or Denmark, that have one of the world's highest
median per capita income, also have the highest female labour participation
rate, higher than 70 percent. If India can increase its women participation in
labour force by 10 percentage points by 2025, it could increase its GDP by16
percent (source: Catalyst). A study by Booz and Company estimates that if men
and women in India were to be equally employed, its GDP could go up by 27
percent. For a family, double income helps them to fulfil their economics needs
and social aspirations while single women need it as a cushion against economic
adversity. Therefore, household bound non-employed women who are finding it
difficult to work are an economic concern that needs to be fixed.
Other Major Amendments and
For a Mother of Two, the
Maternity Leave remains 12 weeks – Its sheer discrimination for the third
child. 26 weeks isn’t for the mother of two or more. So, a mother of two will
only have 12 weeks leave. So, while, the maternity benefit amendment bill 2016
favors the first and second child. Yes, the child will face discrimination and
will also be deprived of dietetic benefits of breastfeeding. The mother can
avail the leave only before six weeks of the expected delivery.
Surrogate Mothers and Mothers Who
Adopt Will Get 12 Weeks of Maternity Leave - This amended bill also introduces
maternity leave of 12 weeks for commissioning and adoptive mothers.
Commissioning mothers are biological mothers who use surrogacy method for
childbirth and adoptive mothers who legally adopt a baby below 3 months of age.
Though the bill is a progressive bill, but it is still a question as to why the 26-week leave is not slated for
mothers who have children through surrogacy and adoption.
Option to Work From Home Post the
Maternity Leave - Post the 26-week maternity leave, the bill introduces a
provision where the employer may permit “Work from Home” for the new mother.
This would apply to only those who nature of work allows them to work from
home. The duration of “Work from Home” is something that the employer and
employee can decide mutually.
The Maternity Benefit Act
Amendment Bill 2016 Also Introduces Creche Facilities - Organizations with more
than 50 women employee will have to provide crèche facilities within a
prescribed distance according to the amended Maternity Benefit Act. Mothers
will be allowed 4 visits in a day to the crèche including her break time.
Impact of Amended Bill for
Labour Ministry officials said
that these changes in the maternity leave are aimed at helping mothers devote
more time towards the health and care of their child and to increase the number
of women in India’s workforce. Our country has a very low labor force
participation rate for women which has been on the decline for over a decade –
in 2005, it was 37% but this fell to 29% in 2010 and today it stands at 22.5%.
These figures are particularly
alarming as the downward spiral has continued despite India’s rapid economic
growth. While the declining female participation is highest in rural
population, it is also present in urban population across all age groups and
levels of education. Ironically, the gap between male and female labor force
participation is evident in the Rajya Sabha where only 31 of the 244 members
As the amendment goes beyond
economics, it can be termed “historic”. It is a long overdue recognition of the
aspirations of innumerable Indian women who aspire to attain their rightful
place in India’s economic growth, without requiring to compromise on their role
as mother and nurturer.