Maternity Benefit Bill passed: 26 weeks paid leave, creches made compulsory

Happiness Arrives: Sunita with her newborn son in her hospital ward
The bill will benefit around 1.8 million women. (Photo: Cherian Thomas)

The Maternity Benefit Amendment Bil passed by the Lok Sabha on March 9 seeks to increase the paid maternity leave to 26 months from the existing 12 months. The bill will benefit around 1.8 million women.

In addition, the bill also provides up to 12 weeks paid leave for a woman who adopts a child below the age of three months and also for commissioning mothers. The leave will start from the date the child is handed over to them.

The law will apply to all establishments employing 10 or more people. The bill also makes it mandatory for employers with 30 women or 50 employees, whichever is less, to provide crèche facilities either in the office or in any place within a 500-metre radius. The mother will be allowed four visits a day to visit the crèche.

With this, India stands at the third position for proving paid maternity leave. Canada and Norway grant 50 weeks and 44 weeks paid maternity leave as respectively.

Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya said,”This is my humble gift to women, a day after the world celebrated International Women’s Day.”

Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi hailed the bill and said “I am very, very happy we have made history today. This will help thousands of women and produce much healthier children. We have been working on it for a long time.”

However, there were concerns that the bill could affect the women’s employability. Congress’s Sushmita Dev said, “Since the employer has to pay the salary during the leave period, the amendment might turn out to be counter-productive. The innovative thing to do would be to bring in paternity benefit.”

However, the leave period will be reduced to 12 weeks for beyond two children. Notably, the Bill has left out surrogates.