Maternity leave to be extended to 26 weeks

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As per the proposed amendments, maternity leave for women in both the private and public sectors will be enhanced to 26 weeks from the existing 12.

An amendment to the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 bill proposing to extend the maternity leave for working women to 26 weeks, which was long due may soon become a reality. Labour minister Bandaru Dattatreya was expected to table the bill in the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday, also aiming to provide 12 weeks of maternity leave to commissioning mothers and introducing an enabling provision of ‘work from home’ for nursing mothers.

The changes proposed by the Labour Ministry have been recently approved by the Cabinet. With the women-friendly changes proposed, the Ministry is hopeful that the amendment bill will sail through the Upper House. Once the Rajya Sabha passes the bill, it will be tabled in the Lok Sabha.

If the bill sees the green flag, as per the proposed amendments, maternity leave for women working in both private and public sectors will be increased to 26 weeks as against the existing 12. However, the 26-week leave will not be available to those women employees who have two or more children.

The amended Act will also propose 12 weeks of maternity leave to commissioning mothers who use surrogates to bear a child as well as to working women adopting a baby below the age of three months. Additionally, it will have a provision allowing nursing moms to work from home even after 26 weeks of maternity leave, depending upon their job profiles. Also, the women employees and their employers will have to mutually agree on the duration of the ‘work from home’ arrangement.

Adding to the benefits from the Act, the steps also include making it a must for firms with 50 employees to have crèches, individually or in partnership with a few firms, to set up a common facility within a prescribed distance.

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