In a move that could benefit around 1.8 million women employed in the organised sector, the Parliament has passed a bill to increase the paid maternity leaves to 26 weeks from the existing 12.
The Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Bill, 2016 was passed by Lok Sabha on Thursday. Rajya Sabha had passed it in August last year. It will come into effect once the president signs the bill.
With this India will become the country with the third highest maternity leave after Canada (50 weeks) and Norway (44 weeks) of paid maternity leaves.
The law will apply to all establishments employing 10 or more people and the entitlement will be for the first two children. For the third child, the entitlement will be 12 weeks.
The bill also has a provision for 12 weeks of maternity leave to a woman who legally adopts a child under three months of age and a commissioning mother (defined as a biological mother) who uses her egg to have a surrogate child.
While the bill has been widely welcomed, many also have expressed fears of the move being counter productive.
Congress’s Sushmita Dev said it could affect women’s employability in the private sector.
“Since the employer has to pay the salary during the leave period, the amendment might turn out to be counter-productive. Innovative thing to do would be to bring in paternity benefit.”
During the debate in the Lok Sabha some members also called for an increase in paternity leaves, citing that these days most children were born in nuclear families where both the father and mother have to take care of the child.