The Rajya Sabha on Thursday passed the much-awaited Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Bill, 2016, which increases maternity leave from the present 12 weeks to 26 weeks. The bill was moved for consideration by Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya and was passed by a voice vote.
The Union Cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave approved the bill, which will now go to Lok Sabha. The changes will be notified by the labour ministry after the bill is passed in the lower house.
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“The very purpose of this Bill is to increase the working women force because in the work force, participation of women is decreasing day by day,” Bandaru Dattatreya said, adding that the law is applicable to all establishments with 10 or more employees.
As per the proposed amendments, maternity leaves for women working in both private and public sector will be increased to 26 weeks. But women employees who already have two or more children will get 12 weeks of leave only. The bill also proposes 12 weeks of maternity leave for commissioning mothers who have a child through surrogacy, or those to adopt a baby below the age of three months. Additionally, the bill proposes that nursing mothers should be allowed to work from home after the maternity leave, if the option is available and there is a mutual agreement between the employer and employee. Other than this, the bill makes it compulsory for organizations with 50 employees to have crèches – either individually or a few firms can come together to set up a common facility.
Talking about maternity leaves in other countries, Bandaru Dattatreya said that with this bill, India will come to the third position in the number of weeks for maternity leave, following Norway that gives 44 weeks, and Canada that gives 50.
The Maternity Benefit Act, 1961, already protects the employment of women during the time of her maternity and entitles full paid absence from work. But it does not provide any maternity leave for commissioning or adopting mothers.