Parliament has approved the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Bill, 2016 which will grant women working in the organized sector paid maternity leave of 26 weeks, up from 12 weeks at present. The decision is expected to benefit around 1.8 million women. With this, India has also become the country with the third highest maternity leave. Canada and Norway grant 50 weeks and 44 weeks respectively as paid maternity leave.

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.

Women and child development minister Maneka Gandhi told the media that this was a major step towards empowering women. "I am very, very happy we have made history today. This will help thousands of women and produce much healthier children. We have been working on it for a long time," she said.

Some of the important provisions of the Bill are:

  • It aims to protect the employment ofwomen during the time of pregnancy and entitles them to full paid absence from work to take care of their child
  • Womenworking in the organised sector will now be entitled to paid maternity leave of 26 weeks, up from 12 weeks
  • The maternity leave beyond the first two children will continue to be 12 weeks
  • The new law will apply to all establishments employing 10 or more people and the entitlement will be for only up to first two children. For third child, the entitlement will be for only 12 weeks.
  • The bill also makes it mandatory for employers in establishments with 30women or 50 employees, whichever is less, to provide crèche facilities either in office or in any place within a 500-metre radius.
  • The mother will be allowed four visits to the creche in a day. This will include her interval for rest.
  • It also allows employers to permit woman to work from home if it is possible to do so
  • Recognising thatwomen who adopt or use a surrogate to bear a child also need time to bond with the child in the initial months, the bill also extends a 12-week maternity leave to adapting and commissioning mothers.
  • The commissioning mother has been defined as “one whose egg is used to create an embryo planted in surrogate’s womb (in order words - a biological mother).” The period of maternity leave will be calculated from the date the child is handed over to the commissioning or adoptive mother.