The Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Bill, 2016 seeks to amend the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961. The Bill was introduced in the Rajya Sabha on August 11, 2016 and was passed by the Rajya Sabha on the very same day.
The Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 regulates the employment of women in factories, mines, plantations, shops or other establishments employing ten or more persons, except the employees who are covered under the Employees’ State Insurance Act, 1948, for certain periods before and after child-birth and provides for maternity and other benefits. The 2016 Bill amends provisions related to the duration and applicability of maternity leave, and other facilities.
Salient features of the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Bill, 2016 are:-
- Duration of maternity leave – The 1961 Act states that every woman will be entitled to maternity benefit of 12 weeks. The 2016 Bill will increase this to 26 weeks.
- Maternity benefit prior to expected delivery – Under the 1961 Act, this maternity benefit should not be availed before 6 weeks from the date of expected delivery. The 2016 Bill changes this to 8 weeks.
- Maternity benefit for a woman having two or more children – If a woman has two or more children, the maternity benefit will continue to be 12 weeks, which cannot be availed before 6 weeks from the date of the expected delivery.
- Maternity benefit to adopting mother and commissioning mother – As per the 2016 Bill a woman who legally adopts a child below the age of three months or a commissioning mother shall be entitled to maternity benefit for a period of 12 weeks from the date the child is handed over to the adopting mother or the commissioning mother.
- Provision for Crèche facility – The 2016 Bill introduces a provision which requires every establishment with 50 or more employees to provide crèche facilities within a prescribed distance. The woman will be allowed four visits to the crèche in a day. This will include the interval of rest allowed to her.
- Option to Work from Home – The 2016 Bill introduces a provision that states that an employer may permit a woman to work from home. This would apply if the nature of work assigned to the woman permits her to work from home. 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.
- Informing women employees of the right to maternity leave – The 2016 Bill introduces a provision which requires every establishment to intimate a woman at the time of her appointment of the maternity benefits available to her. Such communication must be in writing and electronically