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Q. Amendments to the Maternity Benefits Act: Though amendments have been made to the Maternity Benefits Act 1961, but still millions are left out. Comment.
Aug 12, 2016 Related to : GS Paper 1 and 2

Ans :

Introduction-

Following the Cabinet approving the amendment made to the Maternity Benefit Act, which aims to raise maternity leave for women from 12 to 26 weeks, recently the Rajya Sabha has passed the amendment to above said act. Once amendment act comes into effect India will move into a select league of just 16 countries which grants maternity leave.

Key features-

  • It seeks to increase maternity leave to 26 weeks in all establishments, including private sector.
  • It is applicable to all establishments employing 10 or more persons.
  • It also provides 12 weeks leave for commissioning and adopting mothers and makes it mandatory to provide creche facility for establishment where the number of workers is 50 and above.

Analysis-

  • The above provisions of amendment act are universally recommended for the well-being of both mother and child.
  • Amendments protect the employment of women during the time of her maternity and entitle her of a full paid absence from work - to take care for her child.
  • While some of the bigger organisations have already implemented this, the smaller ones seem unable to do so easily.
  • As of now, 48% of women in the organised sector in India drop out of work mid-career citing family responsibilities.
  • To address these issues, extending maternity leave alone is not enough, it requires an attitudinal shift at workplace.

Issues-

  • These amendments do not touch the unorganised sector where at least 85% of women in India work.
  • Women who are daily wagers are most in need of leave after childbirth since they suffer from poor health in the first place, something aggravated by their working conditions.
  • Even in the organised sector, the new amendments will apply to those who have up to 10 employees or more. This leaves out small outfits where women are either hired on daily wages or are out of the purview of laws which regulate their working hours and leave.
  • There is also apprehension that paid 6 month leave may lead to a bias against employing women.

Conclusion-

To realise the true benefits of amendments law must include each and every organisation irrespective of total number of employees. Law must be implemented in both letter and spirit by both government and private companies. Government also has to institute stringent checks to see that women benefit from such enabling legislation.


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