It’s a reason to rejoice for women employees who are planning to have a baby. The Union government is set to increase the maternity leave for women employed in private firms from the existing 12 weeks to 26 weeks.
The move has been long campaigned for by Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi, who believes that 6 months of maternity leave is essential for for the mandatory 6 months breast feeding for the baby.
The Ministry of Labour is expected to amend the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961, which presently entitles women to 12 weeks of maternity benefit whereby employers are liable to pay full wages for the period of leave. At 26 weeks, India is set to join the league of 42 countries where maternity leave exceeds 18 weeks. “Women in India need longer maternity leave in absence of any support in parenting from men. It should not be seen as a deduction in labour hours but as a long-term investment from the future economic point of view. This is in addition to the fact that women need long maternity leave to recuperate and invest in child care,” said Ranjana Kumari, Director of the Centre for Social Research. Indian women have long stayed away from corporate careers or left it prematurely to stay at home and take care of a new-born baby.
Numbers of woman employees in the corporate sector has been unfavourably skewed against men due to various factors such as pregnancy, child care, household issues, amongst others. Many companies in India including Accenture, Flipkart, Infosys already have favourable maternity benefits for employees, including 20-25 weeks of maternity leaves. Hopefully, with progressive steps such as this, the government can help this ratio get balanced for the better.