New Delhi: Government may introduce the Maternity Benefit Bill, which seeks to increase maternity leave to 26 weeks from current 12 weeks in all establishments, including private sector, in Parliament on tuesday.
The bill recognizes that women who adopt or use a surrogate to bear a child also need time to bond with the child in the initial months and should be entitled to a three month maternity leave. As of now there is no provision for any kind of leave for such mothers. It also proposes to increase the maternity leave for working women in both private and government sector to six-and-a-half months.
Currently women in private sector are allowed a maternity leave of three months while those in government sector are entitled to a leave of six months. If the maternity leave is increased, India would be among the 40 countries in the world where the maternity benefit is over 18 weeks.
The International Labour Organization’s (ILO) Maternity Protection Convention mandates a minimum 14 weeks of maternity benefit to women but recommends that countries should increase it to 18 weeks.
According to the bill, employers in establishments with 30 women or 50 employees, whichever is less, will have to provide crèche facilities either in office or in any place within a 500-metre radius. The bill, which is piloted by the Union labour ministry, is also gender-neutral. This, a senior government official said, will allow even a male employee to take his child to a crèche, if it is far away from the mother’s workplace. It will be the responsibility of labour inspectors to ensure compliance to the provisions of the Maternity Benefit Act.