Maternity Benefit Amendment Bill 2016: A Definite Boon For Working Mothers
This is a positive move towards encouraging women to continue to be part of the workforce and aims at instilling a sense of job security
The much awaited Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Bill, 2016 was passed by the Raja Sabha on August 11 and now awaits the approval of the Lok Sabha followed by the Presidential assent before it can see the light of day. The date of enforcement will be notified in the official gazette. Once notified, the impact on those who have already proceeded on maternity leave would need to be analysed.
This is a positive move towards encouraging women to continue to be part of the workforce and aims at instilling a sense of job security. Not only does the Bill enhance the duration of the maternity benefit from 12 to 26 weeks it also introduces this benefit for adopting and commissioning mothers. Similar to the recent Model Shops and Establishments (Regulations of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 2015, the Bill envisages provision of crèche facilities within such distance as may be prescribed where an establishment has 50 or more employees. It also expressly prescribes a minimum of 4 visits to the crèche by the employee although the duration of such visits has not been prescribed. The modalities of establishing this facility will be prescribed by rules to be framed by the Government. However, clarity in terms of partnering with external service providers for crèche facilities, the number of children per employee, age limit of the child requires to be thought through.
The Bill additionally prescribes the option of the employee to work from home where the nature of work is such that she does not need to work from the office. This option is subject to mutually agreeable conditions between the employer and employee. Though this flexibility would need to be exercised with caution from the perspective of hours of work and overtime. Organizations would need to put in place appropriate systems in order to regulate this.
In terms of timing of implementation, companies would need to act promptly to adopt the changes in their policies and implement the facilities prescribed once the Bill is enforced. Given that every woman employed directly or through an agency in any establishment is entitled to maternity benefit under the principal legislation, companies would need to ensure that their vendors comply with the amendments as well.
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