In the early 1800s when women decided to step out of their homes and to go into a formal workplace indulging themselves into a new environment many changes took place, from working at home to working in factories, companies which are surrounded by great challenges & numerous obstacles which made the government to do something to protect the dignity of women in a right way along with achieving social justice. At present era where the nature of the world is becoming competitive day by day, families are not able to survive on one person earning which created an inevitable situation for women to participate in earning.
At this point in time, a woman has to perform multiple tasks one of the most difficult is to bearing and giving birth to a child. For the continuation of society both the things giving birth to a child and working are equally required.
Objective of the Maternity Benefits Act
The fundamental aims of providing Maternity Benefits to women through the Maternity Benefit Amendment Act 2017 are as follows;
- To protect the health of women,
- To secure the motherliness,
- To ensure complete safety of child and mother both.
- To preserve the self-respect for motherliness.
The Act has been framed in such a manner that always prioritize nobility of “MOTHERHOOD” by providing absolute healthcare maintenance to child and women when she is not able to perform her duties at the workplace. By growing numbers of women workers in India, maternity benefits are increasingly common in all factories, shops or commercial establishments where 10 or more employees are engaged.
The Act passed by the Indian government aiming at providing uniform benefits to all women workers in the country also to regulate the employment of women during her period of pregnancy. Through this Act, the government intends to focus on women empowerment by increasing their participation in the workforce and overall well-being.
Applicability of Law
Applicability of the Act: As per Section 2 of the Act, The Act is applicable to all those women employed in factories, mines and including every shops or commercial establishments employing 10 or more employees. As per this section the original provision will prevail i.e. the Act is applicable to all women who are employed in any capacity directly or through any agency i.e. either on contractual or a consultant.
The amended provisions of this Act shall come into the effectiveness from April 1, 2017. However, provisions on crèche facility became effective from 1 July, 2017. The Act will be applicable to all those women who all are employed by factories, mines and including every shop or commercial establishments as mentioned under section 2 of the Act.
Maternity Benefits – Under the Act
According to this Maternity Benefit Amendment Act 2017 major benefits have been welcomed after the landmark amendment took place in this Act. The major key maternity benefits are as follows;
- Leave with average pay for 6 weeks before the delivery.
- Leave with average pay for 6 weeks after the delivery.
- A medical bonus if the employer does not provide free medical care to the woman.
- An additional leave with pay up to 1 month if the woman shows proof of illness due to the pregnancy, delivery, miscarriage or premature birth.
- In the case of miscarriage, 6 week leave with average pay from the date of miscarriage.
- Light work for 10 weeks (6 weeks plus 1 month) before the date of her expected delivery, if she ask for it.
- The increase in paid maternity leaves from 12 weeks to 26 weeks for women employees unless they have 2 or more surviving children.
- Women who are expecting after having 2 children, the duration of leave will be 12 weeks.
- The Act now extends also in favour of adoptive mothers.
- Every woman who has adopted a child will get 12 weeks of leave from the date of adoption.
- It further introduces the option of work from home for mothers which can be used after the expiry of 26 weeks of paid leave.
- It also recognizes the rights of an adopting mother and also of commissioning mother (surrogate to bear a child) for the first time may claim to leave for 12 weeks.
- Two nursing breaks in the course of her daily work until the child is 15 months old.
- No discharge or dismissal while she is on maternity leave.
The Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act 2017 has made amendments to the Maternity Benefits Act, 1961. The major aim of the amendment Act is to regulate the employment of women during the period of childbirth. It has amended the provisions related to duration and applicability to maternity leave, and other facilities.
This Act also introduces in-house crèche facilities for women in every establishment employing 50 or more than women and allows women to visit the facility of 4 times a day. Also, the paid maternity leave can be availed by any women 8 weeks before the expected delivery date earlier it was 6 weeks. The amended Act made it compulsory for all the employers to inform every woman employee about all the maternity benefits at the time of appointment. India secured 3rd place in the row after Canada and Norway by providing 26 weeks as maternity leave to women.
The provisions of this Act provide the same benefits to women who have a miscarriage or tubectomy. Any women suffering from illness arising out of pregnancy, delivery, and premature birth of child become entitled her to seek to leave with wages at a rate of maternity benefit for a maximum period one month as mentioned under section 9.
Further by notification of government released on 18th may 2017 added another rule under the Act which is stated under section 6A of the Maternity Benefit Amendment Act 2017 that crèche facility to be near the establishment – within the distance of 500 meters from the main entrance of the establishment. Section 7 of the Act states maternity benefit in case of death of women during pregnancy. Women employee who is entitled to seek maternity benefit is also entitled to seek medical bonus of 25 rupees from the employer as mentioned under section 8 of this Act. Section 9 furthermore states that women in case of miscarriage may entitle to seek 6 weeks paid leave immediately from the date of miscarriage.
To seek all the benefits a woman has to work in an establishment for at least 80 days in the past 12 months to become eligible for all the Maternity Benefits.
What are the significances of the amendments?
Survival and health of Mother and Child:
The amended Act has increased the Maternity Benefits from 12 weeks to 26 weeks. This is significant and is in line with the recommendation of the World Health Organisation which mentions that children should be exclusively breastfed by the mother for the first 24 weeks.
Thus, the increase in the maternity leave will aid in improving survival rates of children and healthy development of both mother and child.
Female labour force participation:
The amendment will reduce the case of women dropping out of the labour force because of the lack of adequate maternity leave.
International best practices:
The amended Act also falls in line with international best practices like the Maternity Protection Convention, 2000 (No. 183) which calls for at least 14 weeks of mandatory maternity benefit.
Adopting and commissioned mothers:
Another significant feature is the introduction of 12 weeks of maternity benefits to the adopting and commissioned mothers enabling them to take care of their children thus respecting their motherhood.
Third such country
The amended provisions have placed India third worldwide only behind Canada and Norway globally in the number of maternity benefits being made available to the women workers.
The role of mother is nominated under an esteemed position always. Motherhood is one of the most challenging jobs in the world which is performed by women only. So today we call upon and say that the amendments are gratefully welcomed for the growth and development of the society and categorized as one of the positive steps by the Indian Government. Few changes by the government in strategic policies and legislation helped to achieve peace, prosperity and social justice among the women along with providing them healthcare benefits to both mother and child.
Edited by Ojaswi Gupta
Approved & Published – Sakshi Raje