New Maternity Benefits – Know the Law and Your Rights!

India is slowly but surely making headway in the area of women’s rights and just recently, women employees have had a reason to celebrate.  The Indian government has extended certain additional maternity benefits to the women workforce under the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act 2017 (Amendment Act).  The Amendment Act was approved by the President last week and has come into effect from April 1, 2017.  This Act modifies the 55-year old Maternity Benefits Act, 1961, thereby expanding and introducing certain benefits for women employees.  The Act applies to all establishments employing 10 or more people.

The highlights of the Amendment Act are:

The period of paid maternity leave has been increased from 12 weeks to 26 weeks. This leave period can be utilized by women for a period extending up to 8 weeks before the expected delivery date and the remainder of 18 weeks can be used post child birth.  This benefit is available to women for her first two children, and for any child beyond the first two, the period of maternity leave is 12 weeks (6 weeks prior to and 6 weeks post-delivery).

The Amendment Act introduces maternity leave for up to 12 weeks for a woman who adopts a child below the age of three months and for commissioning mothers as well. The period of maternity leave is calculated from the date the child is handed over to the adoptive or commissioning mother.

Every establishment with 50 or more employees will now be required to provide for crèche facilities within a prescribed distance.  The woman will be allowed four visits to the crèche in a day.

A woman may be able to work from home if her employer consents to it and subject to the nature of work assigned to her.  This option can be exercised upon mutual agreement between the woman and her employer.  This particular provision regarding the work from home option will come into force from July 1, 2017.

Employers are required to inform a woman of all the benefits and rights available to her under the Amendment Act at the time of her recruitment.  Such information should be conveyed to her either in writing or electronically. 

India’s Labor Minister, Bandaru Dattatreya has termed these amendments as a “humble gift to India’s women”.  The new maternity law could potentially benefit around 1.8 million working women in India.

By Zeenat Phophalia, Esq., Senior Associate


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