Parliament clears Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Bill


Parliament approved a decision which will benefit around 1.8 million women.On Thursday a bill granting women working in the organised sector paid maternity leave of 26 weeks, up from 12 weeks now.

The Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Bill, 2016 was passed by Lok Sabha on Thursday. Rajya Sabha had passed it in August last year.

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The law will apply to all establishments employing 10 or more people. The maternity leave beyond the first two children will continue to be 12 weeks.

The bill will now be sent to the President for his assent to become an Act.

Piloting amendments to the old law, labour minister Bandaru Dattatreya said that while framing the rules, he would try to ensure that pregnant women got maximum benefits. “This is my humble gift to women, a day after the world celebrated International Women’s Day,” he said a four-hour debate took place in which some members demanded paternity benefits too. The Minister refrained from commenting further on the issue of paternity leave.

Women and child development minister Maneka Gandhi hailed the decision to be a major step towards empowering women. “I am very, very happy we have made history today. This will help thousands of women and produce much healthier children. We have been working on it for a long time,”she said.

The Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 protects the employment of women during the time of her maternity and entitles her full paid absence from work to take care of her child.

Among other things, the bill provides for 12 weeks of maternity leave to a woman who legally adopts a child under three months of age and a commissioning mother (defined as a biological mother) who uses her egg to have a surrogate child.

The bill also requires every establishment with 50 or more employees to provide creche facilities within a prescribed distance. The woman will be allowed four visits to the creche a day. This will include her interval for rest.

It has also made a provision under which an employer can permit a woman to work from home, if the nature of work assigned permits her to do so. This option can be availed of, after the period of maternity leave, for a duration that is mutually decided by the employer and the woman.

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