A Bill To Keep More Moms In Harness
The Bill is expected to benefit 1.8 million working women, as it will apply to both the private and the public sectors, uplifting their work conditions phenomenally
Aday after the world celebrated International Women’s Day, India paid its tribute to working mothers by approving the third highest maternity leave in the world, after Canada and Norway.
Canada offers paid maternity leave for 50 weeks and Norway offers 44 weeks of leave during motherhood. The Maternity Benefits (Amendment) Bill 2016, will grant Indian women 26 weeks of paid leave, once the President gives his assent to it.
The Bill had been approved by the Rajya Sabha as long ago as August 2016. The Lower House of Parliament chose to give its assent to it on March 9.
Ironically, only 53 members of Parliament of the 545 members of the Lok Sabha, were present and voting when the Bill was passed – of whom eleven were women.
The Bill amends the Maternity Benefits Act, 1961, which had entitled working mothers in India to 12 weeks’ of absence from work. It protects the employment of working mothers and entitles them to full paid absence from work for child care.
The law also provides for 12 weeks of maternity leave to a woman who legally adopts a child, under three months of age. The law will become applicable to all establishments that employ ten or more people. Establishments that have 50 or more employees, will have to provide crèche facilities within a prescribed distance from the workplace.
Mothers will be allowed to visit the crèche four times a day. A provision in the law, also entitles women to work from home, provided the nature of work so permits.
The Bill is expected to benefit 1.8 million working women, as it will apply to both the private and the public sectors, uplifting their work conditions phenomenally.
According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the “women labour force” participation in India had dwindled to 27 per cent in 2014 from 37 per cent in 2005. Child birth is estimated to be a reason why women give up their jobs.
Expert bodies like the World Health Organisation (WHO) have all along recommended 24 weeks’ of maternity leave. An argument against the move has been that it could deter women from being employed in the first place, since the law imposes higher costs on the corporate sector.
In India of course, we have to wait and see what the true implications of the law would be.