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The Government on Monday, 8th May 2017, clarified that it is mandatory on the part of employers to extend the benefit enhanced maternity benefit of 26 weeks, as modified by the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Bill, 2016, to those women workers who were already on maternity leave on the date of enforcement of the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act, 2017, that is April 1, 2017.

The Labour Ministry had notified the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act, 2017 on March 28, 2017 and the provisions of the Amendment Act have come into force with effect from April 1, 2017, “except those relating to crèche facility [Section 4(1)], which would come into force from July 1, 2017”.

Keeping in view queries received from various quarters, the Ministry had on April 12, 2017 issued certain clarifications on various provisions of Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act, 2017.

One of the clarifications issued stated that the enhanced maternity benefit, as modified by the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Bill, 2016, can be extended to women who are already under maternity leave at the time of enforcement of this Amendment Act.

It is now “mandatory” for employers to extend enhanced leave to women already on maternity leave.

Salient Features of the Act:

  1. Maternity leave available to the working women to be increased from 12 weeks to 26 weeks for the first two children.
  2. Maternity leave for children beyond the first two will continue to be 12 weeks.
  3. Maternity leave of 12 weeks to be available to mothers adopting a child below the age of three months as well as to the “commissioning mothers”. The commissioning mother has been defined as biological mother who uses her egg to create an embryo planted in any other woman.
  4. Every establishment with more than 50 employees to provide for crèche facilities for working mothers and such mothers will be permitted to make four visits during working hours to look after and feed the child in the crèche.
  5. The employer may permit a woman to work from home if it is possible to do so.
  6. Every establishment will be required to make these benefits available to the women from the time of her appointment.

 

While India’s private sector employers lagged behind the government sector and many other countries in terms of providing extended maternity benefits, with the enactment of the Maternity Amendment Act, India has become one of the most progressive countries in terms of providing maternity benefits. The Maternity Amendment Act is definitely a welcome step taken by the Indian Government enabling women to combine their professional and personal roles successfully and to promote equal opportunities and treatment in employment and occupation, without prejudice to health or economic security.

 

Sanchayeeta Das

Legal Associate

The Indian Lawyer

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