Maternity Leave Policy in India

Effective since 2017, India revised its labor laws with regards to the provision of maternity leave for the female working population. With an increase from 12 to 26 weeks, the private sector is now on par with the leave amounts granted to women working in the public sector. Even though India has become one of the most progressive countries regarding the provision of maternity benefits, it fails to extend these benefits to women working in the unorganized sector.

The Maternity Amendment Act outlines features of the reformed policy. Not only does it increase the duration of the maternity leave from 12 to 26 weeks, but it also mentions that female employees who have at least 2 children are entitled to 12 weeks of maternity leave. Those who adopt a child younger than 3 months are also entitled to 12 weeks off. Furthermore, working mothers have the option of working from home, and employers who have at least 50 employees working for their firm must provide a crèche facility – a day-care center/ nursing room for new mothers. It should be noted that this amendment act places India ahead of many European countries in terms of maternity benefits provided to working mothers.

Important Features of the Maternity Amendment Act:

  1. Increased Maternity Leave – the duration of maternity leave has been revised from 12 weeks to 26 weeks for all eligible employees. In the case where the female employee has 2 or more surviving children, a 12-week leave is to be granted. If a female employee wishes to take time off before her delivery, she is allowed 8 weeks off out of the 26 weeks granted to her.
  2. Crèche Facility: Employers who have at least 50 people working for them must include a crèche facility in their offices/buildings. This can either include a private room or a shared common space where women can visit their kids for nursing purposes. The employer is required to allow 4 visits per day to a crèche facility while also including a period of rest for the working mother.
  3. Work from home: Eligible employees are allowed to opt for the option of working from home, depending on the nature of the work. The terms and conditions for a work-from-home arrangement shall be mutually agreed upon between the employer and employee.
  4. Written Proof: At the time of recruiting female candidates, all information regarding maternity benefits shall be communicated orally, in writing, and via email.

The Maternity Amendment Act is a positive step forward in empowering women to strike a balance between their professional and personal lives. However, this Act fails to recognize the women working in unorganized sectors. A study published on Indian female workers in the unorganized sector states that 70% of Indian women don’t work, and for those who do, about 84% of them work in the unorganized sector. Statistically, just about 1% of the entire workforce benefits from these reforms.

Apart from this, the amended maternity act does not include paternity leave, subtlely indicating that the responsibility of raising kids falls on the women and not both parents.

Although the Maternity Amendment Act is the kind of reform that should be encouraged, we must keep in mind that this is an extremely limited view of maternity benefits, and efforts should be made for more inclusivity. Learn more about doing business in India here.

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