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By Madhur Singh
New legislation approved by parliament March 9 makes it mandatory for all businesses employing more than 10 people to provide women employees 26 weeks of paid maternity leave. Female employees who have worked for a given employer for at least 80 days in the 12 months immediately preceding the date of expected delivery are eligible for the extended benefits, provided they give the employer written notice seven weeks before the expected date of delivery.
Businesses across the manufacturing and services sectors—including factories, mines, shops and other establishments specified by state governments—will have to comply once the Maternity Benefits (Amendment) Bill, 2016 is signed by the president. This is largely a ceremonial step and approval is rarely denied, although the process may take a few weeks, as the government may wait until the current session of parliament ends April 12 to send all bills to the president for approval.
At present, the Maternity Benefits Act, 1961 provides up to 12 weeks' maternity leave, six weeks' leave in cases of miscarriage and one month's in cases of illness during pregnancy.
The amendment extends paid maternity leave to 26 weeks for the first two pregnancies and provides for 12 weeks' maternity leave to adopting and surrogacy-commissioning mothers. Paid leave for adopting mothers will only apply if the adopted child is younger than 3 months. Employers are required to inform female employees on hire, both in writing and electronically, of their entitlement to maternity benefits.
Businesses employing more than 50 persons must also provide child care facilities and permit mothers four daily visits, and all employers are encouraged to allow women to work from home if feasible.
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For more information on Indian HR law and regulation, see the India primer.
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