India: Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act effective from 1 April

04 May 2017
The Government of India has passed a landmark bill increasing mandatory paid leave from 12 weeks to 26 weeks for women employees working in companies with more than 10 staff. This brings India at third position globally in terms of the number of weeks of maternity leave after Canada (50 weeks) and Norway (44 weeks).

The Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Bill was passed by the Lok Sabha on 9 March and Rajya Sabha on 20 March. The Bill, effective since 1 April, seeks to amend the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 to provide for the following:

  • Maternity leave available to the working women to be increased from 12 weeks to 26 weeks for the first two children.
  • Maternity leave for children beyond the first two will continue to be 12 weeks.
  • 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.
  • 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. (this will be applicable from 1st July 2017)
  • The employer may permit a woman to work from home if it is possible to do so.
  • Every establishment will be required to make these benefits available to the women from the time of her appointment.

The amended law will have a big impact on working mothers, it is expected to benefit about 1.8 million women in the organised sector. This will help women devote time to take care of their babies and enable an increase in the women’s labour force participation rate in India.

The bill paves the way for the ratification of International Labour Organisation convention number 183 that provides for 14 weeks of maternity leave benefit to women.

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