By Arpita Singh
Maternity bill passed in Lok Sabha increasing maternity leave from 12 weeks to 26 weeks. Is it going to be fruitful? After the assurance of 26 weeks leave will companies hire women employees instead of male employees to whom they don’t have to give any long term leave.
What made the government consider this woman only plan? It seems men are never deserving enough for such breaks by the vice of their sex. Or maybe women are considered ‘special’ by Government to take care of and given maternity leave? Whatever it is, it’s not unlikely that women will be seen with discriminatory eyes and their appointment will be hindered with this amendment.
The Bill will benefit 1.8 million women who are in the organised sector but what about 90% of the women in the unorganized sector who are not entitled to this privilege. This Bill will surely not help women at large as women in unorganized sectors are totally neglected.
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, women with two or more children will be entitled to leave of 12 weeks only.
– The bill requires every establishment with 50 or more employees to provide crèche facilities within a prescribed distance. The women will be allowed 4 visits to the crèche in a day.
– The bill introduces maternity leave of 12 weeks for women who adopts a child below 3 years, and for commissioning mother.
– 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.
– 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.
What went Wrong?
Well, the Bill looks good on the surface level, but since the costs of the leave are to be borne by the employer, it may have an adverse effect on job opportunities for women. If it was government to bear the costs probabilities would have been different.
Maternity leave for third child will only be 12 weeks, population control must be in government’s mind but this could have a negative impact on the growth and development of the third born child. What about employees who don’t want to take maternity leave of 26 weeks? Who will ensure her job will be handed over to her when she returns to the job?
After returning to the job how will she catch up, the workload will get piled up in all these months and it’s likely that she has to give more time than office hours to cope up? What about a woman leading a team? Will the things be as easy for her too as the bill suggests?
The Employers’ Perspective:
Talking of the employer who clearly has a better choice at the time of appointment to disregard women candidates and give jobs to male candidates. There are laws against discriminatory practices in job hiring but proving such discriminations becomes very difficult.
Would an employer hire a woman employee if he has to bear six-month costs without any work getting done by that post? The prospects of returning the position and profile to the woman employee after she returns look bleak.
Currently, there are different labor laws that provide maternity benefits to women in different sectors. These laws differ in their coverage, benefits, and financing of the benefits. It will be interesting to see how all the sectors will be covered under the Bill.