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By Madhur Singh
Aug. 25—Businesses in India will be required to provide 26 weeks' paid maternity leave to employees having up to two children if the lower house of parliament affirms legislative amendments approved by the upper house during the recently concluded “monsoon session.”
Under the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Bill, 2016, approved by the Rajya Sabha Aug. 11, the present 12 weeks' maternity leave would be extended to 26 weeks, although only 12 weeks' leave would be allowed for the third child and beyond.
The act applies to factories, mines, plantations and shops and other establishments employing 10 or more persons and mandates benefits for pregnant women employed directly or through a contractor. Female workers 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 benefits, provided they give the employer written notice at least seven weeks before the expected date of delivery.
The amendments would extend maternity benefits to adoptive and “commissioning” mothers (in cases of surrogate parenthood), who would be entitled to 12 weeks' leave from the date the child is given into their custody. The benefits would apply only if the adopted child is less than 3 months old or the commissioning mother's egg has been used to create an embryo implanted in the surrogate.
The amendments would also allow maternity leave to begin up to eight weeks before the expected delivery rather than just six weeks before as currently and require workplaces with 50 or more employees to provide nurseries close to the workplace and allow female employees four daily visits.
All businesses would be required to inform female employees at the time of hiring of the maternity benefits to which they are entitled and be encouraged to allow new mothers to work from home if the nature of their jobs permits it.
The lower house of parliament, the Lok Sabha, will review the amendments at the winter session due to start in November. Since the ruling BJP-led government is in majority in the Lok Sabha, the amendments are likely to be approved.
Minister for Labour and Employment Bandaru Dattatreya told a press briefing in New Delhi Aug. 12 that the amendments would benefit some 1.8 million female workers in the organized sector. Some analysts, however, contend that the amendments may discourage businesses from hiring female workers, defeating the aims of both job creation and advancement of gender balance in the workplace.
To contact the reporter on this story: Madhur Singh in Chandigarh at email@example.com
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Rick Vollmar at firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information on Indian HR law and regulation, see the India primer.
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