Women and child development (WCD) minister Maneka Gandhi wants the three-month maternity leave presently granted to working women under the Maternity Benefits Act, 1961, to be increased to eight months, so as to enable mothers to take better care of their newborns.
The Union labour ministry is already considering a proposal to increase the existing maternity leave from three to six months but Gandhi wants it to be further increased to eight months.
In a recent communication to labour minister Bandaru Dattatreya, Gandhi has requested that “maternity leave entitlement be increased to eight months (including one month before expected delivery date and seven months after delivery) for all working women.”
She also wants the benefit to be extended to working women who have opted for adoption.
Gandhi has further requested that the labour ministry should extend maternity benefit provisions to all working women both in organised and unorganised sector. “Considering the fact that overall public sector employment has declined and large numbers of women are engaged in the minformal sector activities, it is essential to extend maternity benefit provisions to all working women both in organised and unorganised sector,” Gandhi’s letter states.
A senior labour ministry official said that they are in the process of amending the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961. “Discussions are on. We are consulting all stakeholders before making final changes to the Act,” the official said.