Bringing in much relief to the new moms who had to strike a balance between their jobs and caring the babies, the government has decided to extend their period of maternity leave from 12 weeks to 26 weeks. This shall be applicable to both private and public sectors.
Union Minister for Women and Child Development, Maneka Gandhi quoted that, “We had written to the Labour Ministry asking that the maternity leave be extended taking into account the six months of breastfeeding that is required post childbirth. The Labour Ministry has agreed to increase it to six-and-a-half months.”
Though the Maternity Benefits Act of 1961 allows female workers to have a maternity leave of maximum 12 weeks, it has been a matter of debate considering the increase in responsibilities women had to take up after the child birth. The Labour Ministry is expected to move a note to the Cabinet Secretariat in this context. Along with this the government was also mulling a provision for a 16 week maternity leave for women who adopt child of up to three months of age.
According to sources, the government also plans to introduce an option for the new moms to work from home for a period of two years immediately after the child birth. “This tenure has to be mutually agreeable. It is an option that the employer and employee can look at. We suggested this for lactating mothers who would want to breastfeed their infants. Also, the first two years of a child’s life with a mother is very important. So, we want companies to be flexible in this regard,” said an official of the labour ministry.
Gender experts are hopeful of the move, for they believe that this would help in bridging the gender gap in the labour force. This would also help to reduce the incidents of malnutrition and diseases among the new borns. However, there are apprehensions related to the law’s practicality when it comes to women working in unorganized sectors.