New Delhi: On August 10, the Rajya Sabha passed a Bill that provides for 26 weeks maternity leave. The decision cut across party lines and some members even sought norms for paternity leave so that parents can share the responsibility of their raising children.
The Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Bill, 2016, was moved for consideration by labour minister, Bandaru Dattatreya, and was passed by a voice vote.
The measure also seeks to increase maternity benefit from 12 to 26 weeks for two surviving children, a measure that would benefit about 1.8 million women in the organised sector.
“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,” Dattatreya said.
He said the law will be applicable to all establishments employing 10 or more persons.
Citing the maternity leave rules prevalent in various countries, Dattatreya said that once the Bill is enacted India will jump to third in the world in terms of the number of weeks for maternity leave, behind Norway (44) and Canada (50).
Highlighting that there are more nuclear families now, women and child development minister Maneka Gandhi said that the Bill has its roots in malnutrition, as breastfeeding the child is recommended but often not possible because the mother has to be away.
She added that the post-natal phase is difficult for women, who need time to ensure that their bodies heal and that “it is a very stressful time for the mother, who should be with the child”.
Observing that the legislation will go a long way to ensure that the future generations are healthier, Gandhi said that the women and child development ministry had recommended raising maternity leave from 12 weeks to 8 months but it was considered too long for the employer.
The minister also said that the government was considering direct benefit transfer for women.
The Maternity Benefit Act, 1961, protects the employment of women during the time of her maternity and entitles her full paid absence from work, to take care of her child.
The cabinet, yesterday, gave ex-post facto approval to the amendments made to the Maternity Benefits Act, that aims to raise maternity leave for women from 12 weeks to 26 weeks.