In August 2016, Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Bill which is the official reformation of the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 was passed at the Rajya Sabha which states that amount of paid maternity leaves have increased to 26 weeks in India from 12 weeks earlier on. It is a mandatory step to be taken up by the factories, mines and plantation as well. It has also increased the limit of paid maternity leaves before delivery from 6 to 8 weeks. This legislation applies to any establishment which has employee strength of more than 10 people and can be availed by employees who have worked in the organization for at least 80 days in 12 months preceding the date of the delivery. There is another segment of the law which is under discussion at current times related to the commissioning and adopting mothers. It proposes 12 weeks leave for them. The segment also includes providing crèche facility when the employee count is 50 or more.
With current reformation to the Maternity policy, it is essential to look in to maternity leave scenario at other countries.
- Sweden tops the list when it comes to maternity leave policy. It has 56 weeks of paid maternity leave with 80% pay guaranteed. The leave can also be extended by 13 weeks in case of necessity with a fixed salary rate to be decided between the employee and management. Paternity leave is 34 weeks to new parents and same gender couples can apply for the leaves accordingly.
- Croatia is next in line with 24 weeks of maternity leave accompanied by full pay. It also has the provision of additional 34 weeks to be added to the leave duration at a negotiable salary rate. There is 34 weeks of paternal leave as well.
- United Kingdom has 52 weeks of maternity leave in which 26 weeks are compulsory and rest is additional. In first 36 weeks, the pay given is up to 96%. The paternity leave is 26 weeks as well.
- In Canada, duration of maternity leave is dependent on the employment history and average working hours which extend from 17 weeks to 52 weeks. Average salary paid is usually 55% of the total amount but in certain cases it might go up to 80%. Paternity leave is up to 35 weeks.
- United States of America does not have any maternity leave structure as such. There is only provision of 12 weeks of unpaid leaves.
Hence it is evident that while there are many countries providing better maternity leave than India, there are certain developed countries like USA who lag behind.
While this initiative of India has been praised by many, there are certain concerns to it as well. Some experts believe that maternity leave scheme will impact the career growth of female employees since they miss out on office for a long stretch during this period and their previous contributions may not be acknowledged. Secondly, this implies to the organized sector which employs only 10% of the women. The rest 90% would not be able to gain the benefit of this policy. Hence, it is yet to be seen what impact it has on the workforce structure as a whole in India.