Here are the key changes you need to know about Maternity Benefit Act
The much awaited Maternity Benefit (Amendement) Bill, 2016 was passed by the Rajya Sabha on Thursday, after it was cleared by the Cabinet on Wednesday. This Bill when it becomes an Act will benefit about 1.8 million women in the organised sector and increasing the strength of the working women force. The Bill entails that all the working women, in public sector and private will be entitled to 26 weeks of paid maternity leave. In the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961, the provision was for 3 months of paid leave.
So what are the key points this Bill introduces for the women employees?
The Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Bill, 2016 will alter the previous Maternity Benefit Act 1961. This Act applies to all the establishments in the country which have more than 10 employees, including factories, mines, plantations and others.
The Act will straightaway change the duration of the Maternity leave
The Act states that every woman will be entitled to maternity benefit for 26 weeks which is 6 months – a straight increase from 12 weeks or 3 months. The Bill also proposes to change the availability of the leaves prior to the delivery date to 8 weeks from 6 weeks. A woman employee can take her Maternity leave prior to 8 weeks before delivery.
In case a woman has two or more children, the benefit will continue to be 12 weeks as it’s already mentioned in the Act and also she will be entitled to take it only 6 weeks before the date of delivery.
Maternity leave for adoptive and commissioning mothers
The Bill introduces a provision to grant 12 weeks of maternity leave to: (i) a woman who legally adopts a child below three months of age; and (ii) a commissioning mother. A commissioning mother is defined as a biological mother who uses her egg to create an embryo implanted in another woman. The leave period of 12 weeks will be calculated from the date the child is handed over to the adoptive parents or the commissioning mother.
This is the first time the Bill introduces a provision where every organization with 50 or more employees will be needed to provide crèche facitlities within a prescribed distance. The woman availing this option will be allowed four visits to the crèche in a day. This will also include her interval for rest.
Work from home option
The work from home option introduced in the Bill states that an employer may permit a woman to work from home, provided the nature of work assigned to her can be done remotely. This option can be availed of, after a period of maternity leave for a duration that is mutually agreed upon by the woman and the employer.
The right to know about Maternity leave
The 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.
While most of the corporates already are one step ahead of the amendment, as number of companies already have a provision where they provide 6 months of paid maternity leaves on their own accord, and also allow flexi-timings to adjust the work. Organizations which already provide 6-month paid maternity leave are HCL, Flipkart, Microsoft, P&G, Nestle, Infosys, RIL, Tata Group, among others.