The Lok Sabha on Thursday passed the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Bill, 2016 which will raise the maternity leave for working women in public and private sector from 12 weeks to 26 weeks for the first two children.
The maternity leave beyond the first two children will continue to be 12 weeks.
The bill will now be sent to the President for his assent before it becomes an Act. It has already been passed by the Rajya Sabha during last winter session.
Recognising that women who adopt or use a surrogate to bear a child also need time to bond with the child in the initial months, the bill also extends a 12-week maternity leave to adapting and commissioning mothers.
The commissioning mother has been defined as “one whose egg is used to create an embryo planted in surrogate’s womb.”
However, the bill has left out surrogate mothers from the benefit -- an issue over which the government had faced criticism from the opposition benches in the Rajya Sabha during the winter session.
The bill also makes it mandatory for employers in establishments with 30 women or 50 employees, whichever is less, to provide crèche facilities either in office or in any place within a 500-metre radius.
The International Labour Organization’s (ILO) Maternity Protection Convention mandates a minimum 14 weeks of maternity benefit to women but recommends that countries should increase it to 18 weeks.
The bill is gender-neutral that will allow even a male employee to take his child to a crèche, if it is far away from the mother’s workplace.
It also allows employers to permit woman to work from home if it is possible to do so. “This has been done to help new mothers. However, we have left it for the employers to decide,” said a senior Union labour ministry official.