Prologue: As important as it is to know the business scenario in India to establish a successful organization there, it’s equally important to know about the employed workforce as well as the governing laws and regulations in the country. Boasting of a new-age workforce comprising of a mixture of Baby Boomers, Gen-Y and Gen-Z employees, India adopts suitable legislation owed to a cultural shift in its global positioning. Here, we talk about one such legislation and how it affects the Indian workforce as well as what business owners need to know and understand while hiring for their organisations.
On the global stage, India has ensured to leave no stone unturned to have a workforce which excels in multiple sectors. This consistent effort has seen us progress but has also demanded the type of labor laws which favor and empower the Indian employee. One such concept is the maternity leave policy in India, which is governed by the Maternity Leave Act, 1961.
Via this article, we’ll be detailing the maternity leave policy in India and how its key changes via the Maternity Benefit (Amendments) Act 2017 have been designed, what are the major benefits and also, what are the major points of criticism for the Act which need to be looked at in the future.
Maternity Leave Policy In India: How Major Concerns Were Resolved
Starting off, the primary condition which worries Indian working mothers is the disparity in getting paid during their maternity leave. Will they be paid the same amount that they’re being paid or lesser?
Well, the answer to the question has been made simple, as the Act now states that the said woman who applies for a maternity leave shall be paid as per her average daily wage of the preceding 3 months before applying for the maternity leave.
However, there’s a small catch to this: The woman applying for the maternity leave must’ve worked for the employer for at least 80 days in the previous 12 months before her expected date of delivery.
Another major cause of concern with the maternity leave policy in India has been with respect to the duration of the maternity leave period for the woman concerned. Earlier, the law stated that the period of maternity leave shall be 12 weeks, which was later amended in 2017 and the period for the maternity leave was extended to 26 weeks, much to the delight of aspiring mothers.
These leaves can be structured in multiple ways, where a total of 8 weeks maximum can be claimed before the birth of the child or all 26 weeks could be utilized as part of the maternity leave after the delivery of the child. The leaves could also be applied for a shorter period than 26 weeks, where it again depends on the woman applying for the leave.
However, in the case of more than 2 children, the woman is given a maternity leave for a period of 12 weeks.
A New Outlook For Working Women Looking To Adopt A Child
What does come as a breath of fresh air is how the 2017 amendment gave a more progressive outlook to the maternity leave policy in India by focusing on mothers who are looking to adopt a child. The catch is that the age of the child should be less than 3 months and the said mother can claim a maternity leave for a period of 12 weeks.
It has also considered the factors of miscarriage or medical termination of pregnancy, where the woman is eligible to claim a leave of up to 6 weeks on production of proof of miscarriage/termination of pregnancy. The wages in this case will be provided at the same rate as during the maternity leave.
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Secondly, in case the woman has certain illnesses which are a result of pregnancy, premature childbirth, miscarriage, etc., then the woman can claim an added leave period of not more than a month, provided there is substantial proof for the same from the doctors or the concerned medical staff.
There are certain mandatory things needed on the employer side, where the employer has to mandatorily detail the maternity leave policy in writing and via mail to the female employees looking to avail the maternity leave.
Secondly, in case the said establishment houses more than 50 employees, it is mandatory to have creche facilities within the establishment (allowing up to 4 visits a day to mothers with 2 more nursing breaks, as needed) and it is unlawful to dismiss/suspend a female employee on the account of her claiming a maternity leave.
Challenges For The Maternity Leave Policy In India And The Ground To Cover
The maternity leave policy in India doesn’t come without its challenges, of course. The burden falls on the employer wherein they must bear the entire cost of the provided salary of the employee who has availed her maternity leave. This is on contrast to other nations’ policy where the salary cost is borne in a shared model between the state and the employer.
Even though changes to the policy have been proposed, it remains to be seen how effectively they’re incorporated and implemented by corporate organizations, as they aim to adjust as per a changing workforce demographic and empower the female workforce.
Aside from the issue of monetary compensation and its realignment to ensure a parity, the maternity leave policy in India has taken a turn for the good and has also been taken a step ahead by companies like Zomato, which have also introduced a paternity leave policy in India and in other countries as well.
Zomato set an example by including fathers, adoptive parents, and same-sex parents in their policy framework and have also announced monetary benefits for the same, thereby setting the tone for going against traditional gender roles and redefining employer-employee relations.
All in all, it is nice to see corporate organizations coming to the fore to go against the tide but it remains to be seen how state-sponsored initiatives will support the same in the long run.