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Maternity Benefits And The New Changes

Maternity relates to a state of being a mother. Maternity leave is given to a woman who is pregnant and is allowed to be absent from work in the weeks before and after she gives birth to a child.
In this blog, I shall be discussing about the maternity benefits and the new changes that has been introduced in the present era.

Today there are plenty of women employees ballooned within the markets in India. It was obvious and the need for maternity benefits became an increasingly common trend which is initiated for the well- being of the mother and her child. It was in 1961, that the Maternity Benefit Act 1961, which aimed at regulating equal benefits for women employees was passed by the then Indian Government. There were several international organizations which recommended a maternity leave for minimum 24 weeks for the welfare of both the mother and the child.

The Amendment
The Maternity Bill is an amendment to the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961. It was passed in the Rajya Sabha on August 11, 2016; on March 09, 2017 in Lok Sabha and finally received an assent from the President of India on March 27, 2017.

It is from April 1, 2017 that the provisions of The Maternity Benefit Act, 2017 are effective.

The Maternity Benefit Act 1961 had laws to protect the employment of a women during her maternity period and she got entitled to maternity benefit which means full paid absence from work so that she can take care of her child. This Act is applicable to all the establishments employing 10 or more employees.

Need For Maternity Benefits

1.The foremost reason for availing maternity benefits is to help a new mother adjust with her new role and to protect the health of the mother along with the well-being of the child.
2.Moreover, maternity leave is essential for strengthening families and also helps in inculcating the right values in infants.
3.In this competitive world where both the spouse have to work for a decent living, the fact remains unavoidable that this situation has led to more women joining the work field and thus they have to juggle multiple roles in the family.
Thus, Maternity leave and other such benefits permit women to play various roles like providing financial support to the family and also allowing them to stay at home in between the formative years of the child.

This act is applied to all the women who work in an establishment having 10 or more employees, engaged directly or through a consultant. Dismissal of a pregnant woman is considered unlawful. In case any employer dismisses a female employee on the grounds of pregnancy and is found guilty of doing so shall be punished under section 12 of the Maternity Benefit Act, 2017.

Duration of Leave
This Act increases the length of the paid maternity leaves to 26 weeks from 12 weeks and this period is applied to women nurturing their first or second child. In case a women is expecting her third child or higher will get a paid maternity leave for a period of 12 weeks which is further split in the form of 6 weeks pre- delivery and 6 weeks post-delivery.

This act now is even applicable to adoptive mothers and so every such mother is liable to receive 12 weeks of paid maternity leave.

To add to the benefits, this act has even introduced a new option which is ‘work from home’ options for the new mother. Through this, women can opt to work from home as per the requirement after the stipulated time period of 26 weeks.

Creches Facility

This act makes it compulsory for factories and shops which have employed more than 50 women to have within the factory a crèche facility and women employed in the establishment should be permitted to use this facility at least four times in a day.

This act makes it mandatory for the shop owners and employers to create awareness about the benefits and ensures that the eligible women get their rights and all such information must be made accessible to employees either in writing or electronically.

Major Changes In The Present Era

# The duration of paid maternity has been increased now from 12 weeks to 26 weeks.
# The accessibility to the paid leave has now been extended to eight weeks before the expected due date instead of the previous six weeks.
# This benefit has now been extended to commissioning and adoptive mothers.
# ‘Work from home’ option has been introduced which can be opted after the expiry of the paid leave period for which terms and conditions have to be negotiated by the employer.
# It is now compulsory for the establishments having more than 50 employees to have an in-house crèche facility.
# Women have permission to use the crèche facility for a maximum of four times a day.
# Education of women about their rights to such benefits is now mandatory.

The paid leave has been extended from 12 weeks to 26 weeks which is a welcome change that goes in line with the commended time for such leave as prescribed by the World Health Organization (WHO). This extension eventually helps in nurturing the healthy development of both the new mother and the infant. Also, as per the latest amendment in accordance with practice suggested by the Maternity Protection Convention, 2000 which further indicates at least 14 weeks of maternity benefits for a new mother. Moreover this change in the present era has helped to improve India’s rank concerning benefits provided to mothers.India now ranks third worldwide after Canada and Norway in the number of benefits provided to women.

# Many scientists believe that these changes encourages patriarchy as it shifts the responsibility of childbearing towards the mother.
# Many firms do not allow women to apply for job vacancies as they will eventually have to extend these privileges to them at the time of childbirth and thus this has an adverse impact to the job opportunities available to women.
# In many cases it is found that such provisions lack clarity and thus, making implementation becomes difficult.

Despite of the fact that the maternity benefits available to women is increasing and is a welcome step, the government needs to make sure that the industries do not lose their competitiveness because of such provisions. In case the government could help in bringing about more uniformity in labo laws involving maternity benefits, it would result in serving women all over India in handling responsibilities entitled to them.Content Reference from Legal Blog

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