Indian Parliament amends Maternity Benefit Act, 1961; increases maternity leaves

The lower house of Indian Parliament (Lok Sabha) on 9 March 2017 passed the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act, 2016 (Amendment Act) which was already passed by the upper house (Rajya Sabha) in August 2016. The Amendment Act amends the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 (Act) and now only requires the assent of the President of India before it is published in the Official Gazette, post which it shall become the law.

The Amendment Act revamps the maternity benefits under the Act, and provides for greater benefits for employees who become mothers during their period of employment.

Some of the salient features of the Amendment Act are as follows:

• The Amendment Act increases the period of maternity leave from the currently permissible leave of 12 (twelve) weeks to 26 (twenty six) weeks, of which not more than 8 (eight) weeks shall precede the date of the expected delivery. However, a woman who has 2 (two) or more children will only be permitted 12 (twelve) weeks of maternity leave, of which not more than 6 (six) weeks shall precede the date of the expected delivery;

• In cases where a woman has legally adopted a child below the age of 3 (three) months or in cases of commissioning mothers, maternity leave for up to 12 (twelve) weeks shall be permitted from the date the child is handed over to the adopting or commissioning mother as the case may be. The term ‘commissioning mother’ has been defined to mean a ‘biological mother who uses her egg to create an embryo implanted in any other woman’;

• Where the nature of work assigned to a woman is of such nature where she may work from home, the employer may allow her to do so after availing of the maternity benefit for such period and on such conditions as the employer and the woman may mutually agree;

• Every establishment which employs 50 (fifty) or more employees will be required to provide for crèche facilities within a prescribed distance. Additionally, the woman employee will be permitted up to 4 (four) visits each day, which shall also include the interval for rest allowed to her; and

• Every establishment will now be required to intimate every woman employee in writing and electronically regarding every benefit available to them under the Act at the time of her initial appointment.

The full text of the Amendment Act may be accessed at the following link: