Coming soon: 26 weeks maternity leave through an executive order

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Working women might soon be able to avail the benefits of six and a half months of maternity leave. Even as the proposed amendments to the Maternity Benefit Act of 1961 are underway, Labour and Employment minister Bandaru Dattareya has hinted on an executive order to increase the leave to 26 weeks from the current 12 weeks. This was proposed almost 6 months ago by Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi.

“We have a huge task in hand, but we can’t pass Bills without reaching a consensus. However, we have decided to go ahead with some of the pro-labour Bills through executive orders. We have done it in the case of minimum wage of Rs 10,000 for contract workers. We will do it for extending the maternity benefit as well,” the minister told the Financial Express in an interview.

Also read: Maternity leave in higher education: Govt takes landmark step

Here are a few key points every working mom should know about Maneka Gandhi’s new proposed maternity leave as well as the challenges in it’s implementation at the grassroots level in India:

  • After the India’s Ministry of Labour announced the new amendments made to the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961, a long-due proposal by the Union Government – India became one amongst the 16 countries to have the longest paid leave for women during their maternity and post childbirth days.
  • While the current Act states only three months’ leave, many Companies like  like Flipkart, Accenture, Godrej and HUL  give female employees a leave extension after delivery. This amendment would make the extension mandatory, and as such encourage more women to come back after leave rather than quit their jobs because of pregnancy and child birth.
  • Only 18% out of 48 crore workers in India work for the organised sector, and the rest are under the unorganised sector. As such, the real challenge would be bringing the latter under the purview of the amendments.
  • There is little doubt that the bill will have a positive impact on the moral of female employees. It gives women plenty of time to adjust and recover from childbirth and get back to work in a productive manner.
  • Besides the maternity leave issue, the ministry is occupied with crucially mandating on Labour reform proposals. The biggest since the Independence, the labour minister has embarked on amalgamating 44 extant central labour Acts into two of the codes — code on industrial relations and code on wages — which are likely to be discussed in the monsoon session of Parliament.

At the moment though, if the executive order regarding the extension of maternity leave does come through, it will go a long way in retaining women in the workforce. And while we are talking maternity leave, here is a little titbit of information. The most mom-friendly country in this regard is Sweden, which offers 56 weeks, in other words more than a year of maternity leave with 80 percent of wages. Now that would be great scenario wouldn’t it? Are the lawmakers listening?


Feature Image Credit: economictimes.indiatimes.com