The Maternity Benefit Act protects the employment of women during the time of her maternity and entitles her to a ‘maternity benefit’ – i.e. full paid absence from work – to take care of her child. The act is applicable to all establishments employing 10 or more persons. The amendments will help 1.8 million (approx.) women workforce in organized sector.
AMENDMENTS CARRIED OUT TO THE MATERNITY BENEFIT (AMENDMENT) ACT
- Duration of paid maternity leave
This is one of the most significant piece of amendment, whereby the existing maternity leave period of 12 weeks has been extended to 26 weeks. However, the paid maternity leave applicable to female employees with two or more surviving children has been restricted to 12 weeks (of which not more than 6 weeks shall precede the expected date of delivery).
- Commissioning Mothers/ Adopting Mothers
The Maternity Benefit Amendment Act has extended the benefit of maternity leave (for a period of 12 weeks) to (a) the female employees who legally adopt a child below the age of three months and (b) commissioning mothers. The term ‘commissioning mother’ has been defined to mean a biological mother who uses her egg to create an embryo implanted in any other woman.
- Work from home
The Maternity Benefit Amendment Act has given recognition to the concept of ‘work from home’. Accordingly, post maternity leave, if the nature of the work permits, the employer may allow its female employees to work from home. The terms and conditions for such work from home are to be decided mutually by the employer and the female employee so concerned. However, the said provision has not been enforced yet and shall come into force on July 01, 2017.
- Creche Facility
The Maternity Benefit Amendment Act requires every establishment with 50 or more employees to have a creche facility within the prescribed distance for their employees. Also, the employer is required to permit the female employee so concerned to visit four times a day to the creche.
- Details of Benefits
The Maternity Benefit Amendment Act makes it compulsory for every establishment to intimate its female employees of all the benefits available under the Maternity Benefit Act at the time of their initial appointment. Moreover, the details of the benefits available under the Maternity Benefit Act shall be given in writing and electronically to the female employees.
The Maternity Benefit Amendment Act seems to be a welcome step, as on one hand it encourages female employees to be absorbed in the workforce and on the other hand it incentivizing those already working. It further tries to introduce uniformity in the maternity benefits by providing at par maternity benefits to the employees in private sectors as compared to those working in the government sector.