New mums may get to work from home after maternity leave ends

  • Moushumi Das Gupta, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Aug 09, 2016 19:23 IST
Proposed amendments to the Maternity Benefit Act 1961 encourages employers, especially in the IT sector, to allow new mothers to work from home after their maternity leave has ended. (Shutterstock Photoz)

Women working in the private sector, especially those in the information technology industry, may get to work from home after child birth once they exhaust their maternity leave, if their employers allow it.

The proposed amendment to the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 — which Parliament is likely to take up this week — encourages employers to permit women employees to work from home for some time after child birth.

“We are not making it mandatory for employers to allow new mothers to work from home. It will be up to the employers to decide. Also, the duration for which women should be allowed to work from home will have to be decided by the employers and may vary from company to company,” said a senior Union labour ministry official.

The proposed bill also seeks to increase maternity leave to six-and-a-half months from the current three months in private jobs and six months in government service.

Read | Good news for moms-to-be: Govt may clear 26-week maternity leave across sectors

Women face harassment or discrimination in the workplace after child birth, a global phenomenon highlighted in many reports. In 2015, the UK-based Equality and Human Rights Commission estimated that in Britain, close to 54,000 new mothers leave their jobs every year because they are “dismissed”, made “compulsorily redundant” or “treated poorly”.

No study has been carried out in India to estimate the extent of discrimination faced by working women, especially new mothers.

Read | Bill to aid surrogate, adopting moms likely to be tabled in Lok Sabha today

In a first, the proposed bill recognises the need for women who adopt or use a surrogate to bond with their child, and provides for three months of maternity leave for them.

It also makes it mandatory for establishments with at least 30 women or 50 employees, whichever is less, to provide crèche facilities either in office or within a 500-metre radius.

If the bill goes through, India would be among 40 countries in the world where maternity leave is over 18 weeks. The International Labour Organisation’s Maternity Protection Convention mandates a minimum 14 weeks of maternity benefit but recommends 18 weeks.

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