Maternity benefit amendment bill

Note4Students:

The bill has been in news since it is considered a revolutionary step towards maternity leave provisions in India. So, a probable question may be asked on this.

Context

The Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Bill, 2016 that seeks to amend the old Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 that entitles women to receive maternity benefits has been passed by the Parliament.

Image result for main features maternity benefit amendment bill

Main features of the bill

  1. Expecting mothers who are working in the organised sector can now avail 26 weeks of paid maternity leave instead of 12 weeks.
  2. Bill allows 12 weeks of paid maternity leave to mothers who are adopting a child below the age of three months and also to commissioning mothers who opt for surrogacy.
  3. This entitlement is applicable only upto first two children. For third child, the entitlement will be for only 12 weeks. The leaves further reduce to six weeks if the woman wants to become a mother for the fourth time.
  4. It makes it mandatory for employers with 50 or more employees to provide crèches in close vicinity of the workplace, and by allowing women up to four daily visits to the crèche.
  5. It applies to establishments employing 10 people or more
  6. The organisations must communicate these rights to female employees via writing.
  7. 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.

Comparison between Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 and Maternity Benefit Amendment Bill, 2016

Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 Maternity Benefit Amendment Bill, 2016
12 weeks maternity leave 26 weeks maternity leave
Leave not prior to 6 weeks from due date Leave can be taken 8 weeks prior to due date
Adoptive and Commissioning mothers: No provision Adoptive and Commissioning mothers: Provides for 12 weeks leave
Flexible work options:

No provisions

Flexible work options:

It allows for option to work from home based on mutual agreement between employer and women.

Analysis

Benefits of the bill

  1. The enhancement of paid maternity leave for women is a progressive step and would benefit about 1.8 million women in the organised sector.
  2. It would allow a woman to take care of her infant in the most important, formative months of a child and provide her with much needed work-life balance.
  3. It will make India at third place, only after Canada and Norway, in the level of maternity benefits such as paid time off work extended to women.
  4. The amendment is in line with several expert recommendations including that of the World Health Organisation, which recommends exclusive breastfeeding of children for the first 24 weeks.
  5. It will make for a milestone legislation on the road to reducing gender inequality at work and bringing down maternal and infant mortality in India.

Criticism of the bill

  1. An increase in maternal leave and a mandate to provide crèches might result in adverse incentives for employers to hire women.
  2. The Bill ignores roughly 90 per cent of the Indian women who are employed in the unorganised sector which includes domestic workers, agricultural labourers, seasonal and construction workers.
  3. The Bill continues to reinforce the stereotype about childcare being exclusively a woman’s responsibility and excludes paternity leave from its ambit.
  4. It discriminates against almost all adoptive mothers, particularly those who adopt older babies or children. It also discriminates against adoptive fathers and transgendered persons who may adopt, as it does not recognise their right to parental benefits.

Status in other countries of world

  1. Once the amendment to the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961, comes into effect, only Canada and Norway will be ahead of India, with 50 and 44 weeks of paid leave.
  2. Suriname and Tonga have no provisions for any leave following childbirth.
  3. US and Papua New Guinea offer unpaid leave.
  4. China offers 14 weeks, Australia 18 weeks, Norway 36-46 weeks (pay varying from 100 to 80 per cent of wages) and Denmark gives 52 paid weeks.

Conclusion

  1. The long list of barriers that women face in accessing employment opportunities, such as the risk of exploitation particularly in the informal sector, the lack of wage parity, concerns regarding safety and security, etc., need to find a solution.
  2. India’s problem is not just about ensuring women return to the workforce after childbirth but in bringing women into the workforce in the first place. Resolving this will require more than just maternity leave

Sources

http://www.livemint.com/Opinion/BDf3gCUIYOmmXv5stkbhII/The-economics-of-maternity-leave.html

http://indianexpress.com/article/india/what-is-maternity-benefit-bill-how-does-it-affect-working-women-who-will-benefit-all-your-questions-answered-4563124/

http://indianexpress.com/article/explained/amended-maternity-law-goes-a-long-way-but-has-a-long-way-to-go-still-4570686/

http://www.livemint.com/Opinion/wsvYFn0yr2I6TB0yvfPykK/The-welcome-idea-of-more-maternity-leave.html

http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/key-highlights-of-maternity-benefits-amendment-bill-2016/article17441168.ece

Question

Q.1) Discuss the salient features of the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Bill, 2016? It is considered that the bill will provide women with much needed work life balance. Critically analyse. (200 Words)

Q.2) Critically comment on the recent changes made to the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act (MBA), 2017.

Q.3) Though the bill is a step in right direction, it still falls short of addressing various issues related to pregnancy and maternity. Examine in light of the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Bill, 2016 passed by parliament.

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