Finally, the bells are ringing for a much-need respite to ease out the pressure on working mothers who are expected to perform both as a mother and as an employee. A long pending amendment in the Maternity Benefit Act of 1961 will now mandate organizations even in the private sector to offer 26 weeks maternity leave as opposed to 12 weeks earlier.
The Modi Cabinet on Wednesday gave ex-post-facto approval to amendments in the Maternity benefits Act, thus raising maternity leave from 12 to 26 weeks, entitling mothers to nearly six and a half months of paid leave from work. It is applicable to all establishments employing more than 10 people, thus giving much needed relief to more than 1.8 million working women and mothers, who until now had no option but to leave the workforce permanently leading to a drain in talent and manpower.
This amendment is definitely a cause of celebration for us at BabyChakra. We deal with over 5,00,000 mothers on BabyChakra, India's largest parenting platform, and regularly hear stories on how they had to drop out of the workforce when they were pregnant or their child was young and they found no support system to make it work. Making the maternity leave mandatory for 26 weeks also ensures that all mothers will be able to exclusively breastfeed their babies atleast upto 6 months, which is so critical for child's health and development. At Breast is Best 2016, we discovered so many cases where working mothers had to resort to formula milk because of their absence during the working hours. We are also excited about the fact that adopting mothers will get atleast 12 weeks with their babies. And of course, the creche facility near her workplace will be icing on the cake, and a real boost to infrastructural support for working mothers!
A couple of questions still remain unresolved though. Given these mandatory norms, employers should not develop cold feet about employing women. Will the government also extending support to employers in helping build structural support by way of subsidies or other methods? Re-skilling mothers who are on a six months maternity break is another area that employers/ employer groups should try to solve for, in addition to obviously managing the workforce requirements during a woman employee's leave. Only then will there be a true alignment in realizing the benefits of this otherwise comprehensive maternity policy.
For now, if you are a mum-to-be or a new mom, take your own sweet time, chill out with your cuddly ball of joy, and join back work recharged and ready for a new inning!
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