I am a working mother and during my pregnancy, I was continuously thinking about why maternity leave in India is only for twelve weeks whereas a baby must be breast-fed for six months i.e. about twenty six weeks.
How are other Indian women coping with this gap and who is the sufferer?
Well! My question has been answered by Rajya Sabha yesterday, when it passed the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Bill by increasing the maternity leave from twelve weeks to twelve weeks for working women.
The bill which was presented by Mr. Bandaru Dattatreya, Minister for Labour & Employment, provides the below provisions which is sure to benefit the women workforce:
Duration of maternity leave: The Bill states that every woman will be entitled to maternity benefit of twenty six weeks against the earlier twelve weeks.
- In case a woman who has two or more children, will continue to avail twelve weeks maternity leave.
- Maternity leave for adoptive and commission mothers: The Bill has introduced provision to grant twelve weeks maternity leave to legally adopting and commissioning mothers.
- Option to work from home: Another introduction is the provision to work from home for nursing mothers depending on the nature of work assigned to the woman and the decision taken by the employer.
- Crèche facilities: The Bill introduced provision which required every company with fifty or more employees to either provide crèche facilities within a prescribed distance.
Mrs. Maneka Gandhi, Union minister for Women & Child development, has been closely working on this proposal since last couple of years and was happy to see the bill being passed.
According to her, this will benefit more than 1.8 million work force in the country.
With this change, India joins the league of 42 countries where maternity leave is more than 18 weeks.
In a country where child rearing is supposed to be the responsibility of the mother alone, marriage and not career is perceived to be the primary goal of a woman—no matter which profession she is in.
For women who are working, striking a work-life balance becomes difficult because few employers provide flexible working hours or crèches.
Therefore, we raise a toast to the Bill!