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World HR Dairy: Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Bill, 2016 increases paid Maternity Leave to 26 weeks in India | Major Highlights and Industry Reaction

The Lower house of India's bicameral Parliament Lok Sabha passed on 9th March, 2017 passed the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Bill, 2016. The Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Bill, 2016 has already been passed by the Rajya Sabha on 11th August, 2016. This inter-alia includes: 

Increasing maternity benefit to woman covered under the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 from 12 weeks to 26 weeks up to two surviving children in order to allow the mother to take care of the child during his/her most formative stage,

Providing 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,

Making mandatory in respect of 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 & also to allow four visits to the crèche by the woman daily, including the interval for rest allowed to her and every establishment to intimate in writing and electronically to every woman at the time of her initial appointment about the benefits available under the Act.

These changes 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 only after the President’s assent.  

Commenting on the bill, T. Muralidharan, Chairman of TMI Group said, “A great move by labour Minister Shri Bandaru Dattetreya from employee stand point. Overdue. From employer stand point this will be a dampener. As it is many employers find women dropping off from work due to marriage and hence all the training cost incurred for hiring fresh women is not recovered.  Now the maternity leave enhancement means more cost to the employer to hire a woman instead of men.”

Muralidharan further added, “What if the woman quits the job after the maternity leave? While I welcome the increase in leave, I would have preferred if part of the increased leave would be "leave without pay ". This would be fair to both. The paternity leave will be the next legislation I suppose.”

Jayanthi Vaidyanathan, ‎Director, Human Resources, PayPal said, “This is indeed a historic move that will encourage more women to continue in the workforce and have fulfilling careers. Industry reports suggest that 41% of women in technology companies tend to leave mid-career, most notably around childbearing years. With the bill passed today, we can begin providing women the motivation to reverse this trend. At PayPal, we have already adapted this approach: our caregiving policies reflect our focus on enabling better participation from women in our workforce. Our maternity policy includes paid leave for 26 weeks and our enhanced adoptions as well as paternity leave policies include 16 weeks for our female employees and 10 days of paternity leave.

According to Krity Sharma, Head-People, Tesco Bengaluru, “Tesco Bengaluru fully supports and applauds the new legislation that has been passed ensuring wellness for both mother and child. When it comes to parenting, we want new parents to have the best possible care and feel fully supported, so that they can enjoy this significant phase of their lives. Tesco Bengaluru will be making the necessary changes to the existing maternity leave policy, which currently entails 22 weeks and an additional 1 month for illness arising out of pregnancy. The policy also includes 10 days of paternity leave ensuring both, the mother and the father are able to spend more time with their loved ones as they welcome new members to their families. This helps boost a healthy and productive work environment, as well as emotional well-being of the company’s colleagues. Further aligning our policies with the government legislation, we’re also inaugurating our new, improved childcare centre at our campus with enhanced facilities to provide a more holistic support to our colleagues.”