How Maternity Benefit Amendment Bill 2016 can prove useful for women?




Working as a software engineer in a private company, Meera is expecting her first child. Though, the motherhood brings immense happiness, the high inflation rate is making her anxious. Moreover, how will she manage her office and baby without affecting any one of them?

Any working sector or organisation in the current world requires the equal contribution of both men and women. Gone are the days of male-dominant society wherein women were only given a role to play in matters of the household and related fields. In today’s world, men and women have equated themselves in terms of business, work, or in other words, professional life. With all this being changed, there comes a time for women when concentrating on their professional life proves to be a challenge and they need to take maternity leaves, considering their physical and mental stress at the time of pregnancy.

To cater to this section of the workforce “The Maternity Benefit Act 1961” was introduced to protect the employment of women during the time of pregnancy wherein they were entitled to a paid leave of 12 weeks. In mid-2016 “The Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Bill, 2016” was introduced, which aimed at providing better environment and facility for women during and after pregnancy.

Key Amendments under the newly introduced bill –

  1. Raising the duration of maternity leave for women from 12 weeks to 26 weeks. However, there are some restrictions like a woman with more than 2 children is liable to get only 12 weeks’ maternity leave. There was already a provision for maternity leave of 26 weeks in the government sector; but the private sector granted only a 12-week leave. Now this act is applicable to all the establishments, including private and government.
  1. With every establishment of 50 or more employees, the crèche facility shall also be given. It refers to a day care centre that is set up within the office premises. A community crèche can be made by combining the resources of two or more organisations within a 500 metres distance which a woman would be allowed to visit four times a day.
  1. If the nature of the work allows, then the employer can allow a woman to work from home as such. This option can be availed after the period of maternity leave is over, which is mutually decided by the employer and the woman.
  1. Every establishment where women are working and where this act is applicable, it is compulsory for the employer to inform women about the maternity benefits available during the time of her appointment.
  1. This bill proposes to cover “Commissioning Mother and Adoptive Mother”. As per the bill, 12 weeks of leave has been introduced. The said leave is to be calculated from the date the child is handed over to the adoptive mother or to the commissioning mother as per the case.

The Maternity Bill is aimed at benefitting around 1.9 million women in the organised sector and also increasing the strength of working women force. But now the question arises – how many women currently are receiving the benefits under this Act?

Studies show that approximately 95% of the working women of India are employed in the unorganised sector. This act, therefore, does not address the grievances and requirements of these women as it focuses on women employed in the organised sector only.  Also, this act completely ignores the importance of paternity leave. According to studies, women, whose husbands have been equal participants during this time, are in a much better mental state and physical health and are thus able to resume their work with maximum ease.

During the maternity leave, owing to the medical bills piling up because of hospital check-ups and medications, the family of a pregnant lady goes through extreme financial stress which cannot be taken care of by the act alone. Here arises the importance of taking a comprehensive health insurance offering maternity insurance to aid the family financially during this time.

Most insurance policies do not cover maternity insurance, as pregnancy is anticipated. However, many companies now offer health coverage along with maternity insurance, which can be obtained as an add-on by paying extra premium. The maternity cover includes a sum of approximately Rs 15,000 to Rs. 50,000 for a sum insured of Rs 3 to 5 lakhs. The waiting time before a woman can claim insurance varies among different companies, usually between 2 and 6 years, but can also be as low as 9 months. Therefore, if your family planning is a few years away, you should go with an individual health insurance policy that covers maternity as well. In addition to maternity expenses, it includes child care expenses as well.

Motherhood is a beautiful phase in every woman’s life. Moreover, after giving birth, a woman’s body requires some time to heal and proper care and planning will play a crucial role in this. So, if you belong to working class, approach your employer to get a complete detail on the pregnancy bill. Along with this, go for a comprehensive health insurance policy which will ensure the complete peace of mind.

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