The government is proposing further enhancement in maternity benefits by reimbursing the cost of extended 14 weeks, from the current seven weeks. The salary cap of Rs.15,000 for eligibility under the scheme is also being proposed to be removed. However, the enhanced cost of the extended maternity benefits may have to be partly supported by employer of the pregnant woman’s husband.
The Maternity Benefits (Amendment) Act had extended the maternity leave from 12 weeks to 26 weeks. But it backfired and employers started discriminating against pregnant women following which the government committed to reimburse to the employer the cost of seven weeks out of the extended 14 weeks for women earning up to Rs 15,000.
The proposal, if it goes through, is likely to cost an additional Rs 400 core to the government if it agrees to reimburse the cost for seven more weeks
Currently, the government is using the corpus lying with the labour welfare cess fund to compensate the employers for the seven weeks of maternity leave out of the extended 14 weeks. The labour welfare cess fund stands at over Rs 30,000 crore.
Efforts are on to see how we can improve on the earlier provisions to make the amended Maternity Benefit Act benefit both the employers and employees. We are looking at all the options including putting some liability on the employers of the fathers," a senior government official told media on the condition of anonymity.
However, laborr ministry will have to make fresh amendment to the Act to make it a parental policy as is prevalent in other countries.