The Union Cabinet has approved amendments to the Maternity Benefit Act of 1961 to increase paid leave for expectant mothers from three months to six and a half months. The Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Bill of 2016 will now be introduced in the Rajya Sabha.
- The amendment bill seeks to increase maternity leave to 26 weeks in all establishments, including private sector. The act is applicable to all establishments employing 10 or more persons.
- The bill also provides 12 weeks leave for commissioning and adopting mothers and makes it mandatory to provide creche facility for establishment where the number of workers is 50 and above. At present, the Maternity Benefit Act does not provide any maternity leave for commissioning or adopting mothers.
Significance of these amendments:
Maternal care to the Child during early childhood is crucial for growth and development of the child. The amendments will help 18 lakh women workforce in organised sector. They also help women devote time to take care of their babies and enable an increase in the women’s labour force participation (WLFPR) rate in India. The labour force participation rate (LFPR) in India is around 40%, but for females, it is only 22.5%. The gap in male-female labour force participation is such that the LFPR for rural women above 15 years is only 35.8%, while for rural males it is more than double at 81.3%, according to a 2015 research paper by the government policy think tank NITI Aayog.
The Maternity Benefit Act, 1961, protects the employment of women during the time of maternity and entitles them of a full paid absence from work to take care for the child.