The Maternity Benefit Act Maternity Benefit Act 1961, Act Under The Maternity Benefit Act,1961. The Maternity Benefit Act, aims to regulate of employment of women employees in certain establishments for certain periods before and after childbirth and provides for maternity and certain other benefits.
Highlights of the Bill:-
- The Act provides maternity leave up to 12 weeks for all women. The Bill extends this period to 26 weeks. However, a woman with two or more children will be entitled to 12 weeks of maternity leave.
- The Bill introduces maternity leave up to 12 weeks for a woman who adopts a child below the age of three months, and for commissioning mothers. The period of maternity leave will be calculated from the date the child is handed over to the adoptive or commissioning mother.
- This maternity leave should not be availed before Eight weeks from the date of expected delivery.
- The Bill requires every establishment with 50 or more employees to provide for crèche facilities within a prescribed distance. The woman will be allowed four visits to the crèche in a day.
- An employer may permit a woman to work from home, if the nature of work assigned permits her to do so. This may be mutually agreed upon by the employer and the woman.
- Communication Methods:The Bill requires an establishment to inform a woman of all benefits that would be available under the Bill, at the time of her appointment. Such information must be given in writing and electronically.
Key Issues and Analysis:-
- Several expert bodies like the WHO have recommended that 24 weeks of maternity leave is required to protect maternal and child health. However, since the costs of this leave are to be borne by the employer, it may have an adverse impact on job opportunities for women.
- Various countries have implemented different funding models in relation to maternity benefits. In some countries the employer bears the cost, while in some others it is paid by the government.
- While women will be provided with 26 weeks of maternity leave for two children, the period of leave for a third child will be 12 weeks. This could affect the growth and development of the third born child.
- The Act and Bill cover women workers employed in establishments with 10 or more employees, and other notified establishments. However, a majority of the women workforce, who are in the unorganized sectors, may not be covered.
Financing of maternity benefits:-
The Bill increases this period to 26 weeks. This implies that employers will have to pay their women workers full wages for this period. The question is whether employers should bear the cost of providing maternity benefits. It could be argued that since maternal and child health is a public good, it would be appropriate for the government to finance such social security measures.
The International Labour Organisation (ILO) Maternity Protection Conventions have stated that employers should not be exclusively liable for the cost of providing maternity benefits to their women employees.It has recommended that the benefits should be provided through compulsory social insurance or public funds. Various countries have implemented different funding models in relation to maternity benefits. A 2014 ILO study on maternity leave provisions in 185 countries observed:
- In 25% of the countries, maternity benefits are paid solely by the employer (e.g. Kenya, Puerto Rico, Nigeria, Pakistan).
- In 16 % of the countries, maternity benefits are financed by a combinations of funds from the employer and the government (e.g. United Kingdom, Germany).
- In 58% of the countries, cash benefits are provided to pregnant women through national social security benefits (e.g. Norway, Australia).
- In the remaining 1% of the countries, there was no provision for maternity benefits (namely, US and Papua New Guinea).