Lok Sabha passes bill to extend maternity leave to 26 weeks

Parliament has passed the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Bill, 2016, a bill which seeks to enhance paid maternity leave for women engaged in organised sector from 12 weeks to 26 weeks for two surviving children, with the Lok Sabha approving it on Wednesday.

Lok Sabha on Thursday passed the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Bill, 2016 which inter-alia includes increasing maternity benefit to woman covered under the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 from 12 weeks to 26 weeks.

The benefits that allow the mother to take care of the child during his / her most formative stage, can be availed for up to two surviving children.

The amended Act also provides for maternity benefit of 12 weeks to commissioning mother and adopting mother, facilitate ''work from home'' to a mother with mutual consent of the employee and the employer.

Besides, the government has made mandatory for establishment having fifty or more employees to have the facility of crèche either individually or as a shared common facility within such distance as may be prescribed by rules and also to allow four visits to the crèche by the woman daily, including the interval for rest allowed to her and every establishment.

The establishments have been directed to intimate in writing and electronically to every woman at the time of her initial appointment about the benefits available under the Act.

Minister of state for labour and employment Bandaru Dattatreya presented the bill in the Lok Sabha.

The minister said the new legislation will be applicable to mines, factories and all establishments employing 10 or more people. In his reply to the debate on the bill in the Lok Sabha, Dattatreya said the amendment has job, wages and social security aspects as its integral parts.

He said violation of the provisions of the amendment bill would attract 3 to 6 months of imprisonment and a penalty of up to Rs5,000.

The Maternity Benefit(Amendment) Bill, 2016 has already been passed by the Rajya Sabha on 11 August 2016.

These amendments in the Act will have major impact on the health, well-being and growth of the future generation in the country. It will have positive impact on women's participation in labour force and will improve the work-life balance of the women workers.

The Maternity Benefits (Amendment) Act, 2016 will come into the force after the President gives his assent.

The amendment would take India ahead of many other nations in terms of the leave period as part of maternity benefits, exceeding the benefit being granted by countries such as Germany, France, Japan and the UK. Responding to the concerns raised by many members during the debate, Dattatreya promised that unorganised sector employees will all be gradually brought under the social security network.

He said the government would bring all unorganized sector workers under the ambit of the Employees Provident Fund and the Employees State Insurance Corporation in a phased manner. The government has brought the nearly 47 million people involved in construction sector under the social security network. He informed the house, the ESIC scheme would be expanded across the country covering all 702 districts as against 395 districts now.

He also said 450 ESIC dispensaries would be upgraded into six-bedded hospitals throughout the nation in the coming years. He also assured that inter-ministerial coordination for ensuring social security to all the labour force would be ensured.