Women want the amended maternity bill passed as their Women’s Day Gift

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Could the government pass the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Bill, 2016, a long overdue proposal? It was finally tabled in the Rajya Sabha on August 11 last year. The proposal updated the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961, and stated that mothers of newborns would be entitled to maternity leave of 26 weeks, increased from 12 weeks.

The second half of the budget session starts immediately after Women’s Day ie. March 9th and women in India is hoping and praying for the amended maternity bill to be passed. Is that even possible, the week when everyone  India would be celebrating women and motherhood, our parliamentarians will give it a miss.

Jincy Varghese, was elated to hear about the amendment to the maternity leave, when she entered her second trimester and hoped by the time she delivered she would be availing this much needed benefit. The washed out November session disappointed her, and she started an online petition on change.org . Her petition has got signed by around 17,300 other mothers who are waiting for this bill. Seems like they will all have to wait much longer, Jincy delivered recently and feels she might have to quit her job as she really wants to be with her baby for the first six months.

ProEves, a childcare and parental support firm, had done a survey on mothers on what are their expectations with respect to the amended Maternity Bill. Around 80% of the women want the bill to be passed in the coming budget session, remaining 10% felt there was an urgent need for a special session for passing the bill. The others insisted on the bill being passed in the next few months but not beyond this year.

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Gender Diversity has been one of the most discussed topics for corporate India over the last few years. Companies have been in news for introducing practices and programs to attract women and arrest the leaking pipeline. But Gender representation in Corporate India is stuck at 20% overall and falls further at senior levels. 6 months of maternity leave and daycare tieup are  the two real game changing policies in the amended bill that can help companies arrest the leaking pipeline.

The survey states, around 70% of the working women leave their careers citing childcare as the main reason but less than 20% of surveyed companies provide daycare arrangements. A clear majority of 75% women mentioned daycare/daycare tieup as a requirement from employers.

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We at SheThePeople, too, had earlier asked few working mothers about their views on the topic.

Shachi Irde, executive director, Catalyst India WRC, a leading nonprofit organisation looking at the inclusion of women in the workplace, is delighted by the bill, but is still concerned about working mothers. The percentage of women in India’s workplaces decreased from 37% in 2004-05 to 29% in 2009-10,” she says. “It is commendable that the government has passed the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Bill, but to prevent the law from being counter-productive to women, organisations must also further their reintegration-from-leave programmes to support the successful return of talented working mothers.”

Read more here.

Aparna Athreya who runs the Kid and Parent Foundation in Bangalore says “It is certainly a step forward for women in the workplace. However, I would like to wait and see the interpretation and implementation before I rejoice. As it stands, the guidelines are broad-based and subject to interpretation.”

Irde prefers to look on the positive side of the bill, which also mandates the provision of crèches in establishments with 50 or more employees. “This amendment will not only help women, but all working parents who are seeking to better manage their work-life priorities. Ultimately, this will result in more engaged and productive employees,” she says.

Will this happen? Only time will tell.

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