Realising that nursing mothers are highly vulnerable and need to be protected from COVID-19 infection, the Labour Ministry recently issued an advisory to all state governments and Union Territories in this regard. The Centre has advised all states to encourage organisations to allow nursing mothers to continue working from home for at least a year from the date of birth of the child.
By allowing nursing mothers to work from home, their health along with their babies’ can be safeguarded. This recommendation has been made in keeping with Section 5(5) of the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act, 2017(the Act), which provides that wherever the nature of work being handled by a woman is such that she can do it from home, the employer may allow her to do so after availing of the maternity benefit for such period and on such conditions as the employer and the woman may mutually agree.
Not just during COVID, but allowing the flexibility to nursing mothers to work from home wherever the nature of work allows to do so, shall ensure that they continue to work without hassles and are not forced to quit the workforce. Therefore, if this provision is genuinely implemented it will enable more women to actively participate in the labour force. This kind of flexibility will ensure the good health of new mothers and their babies, and result in an overall healthy and happy workforce.
The Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 protects the employment of women during the time of maternity and makes her eligible for a ‘maternity benefit’ – that is, full paid leave of 26 weeks – to take care of their infants. This Act is applicable to all establishments employing 10 or more employees.