Child birth is an exhausting process, both physically as well as emotionally. Women need to recuperate from the aftereffects of delivery as well as devote single-minded attention to the newborn during the first few weeks of the baby’s life. It is keeping these factors in mind that Indian law has stipulated the provision of expectant mothers being granted maternity leave with wage benefits from the workplace. The Act states that any woman employed by an establishment with ten or more employees, for a period of more than 80 days (excluding leaves and holidays) preceding the date of expected delivery, is entitled to 12 weeks of maternity leave and benefit. Out of these 12 weeks, at least, six weeks of leave must be granted to the woman employee from the day of delivery.
Women employed in government jobs are entitled to six months of maternity leave and benefit.
In a recent amendment by the Ministry of Labour to the Maternity Benefit Act, all other terms remaining unchanged, women employed in the private sector would be eligible for 26 weeks of maternity leave and benefit. This effectively would increase the leave duration from three months to six and half months. The amendment was brought in to promote exclusive breastfeeding and to ensure that incidences of child malnutrition and mortality are reduced. Major corporate entities were already granting six months of maternity leave to the women employees. This blanket amendment covering all establishments under the purview of this act will allow a working woman to avail post delivery leave from work for a longer period without having to worry about the consequences of neglecting the needs of her breastfed baby or quitting the job. This in turn will hopefully reduce the attrition rate of skilled women employees owing to childbirth and immediate child care needs.
Many corporate companies are allowing male employees paternity leave from five to fifteen days depending on the organisation’s specific human resource policies. Similar to maternity leave, paternity leave can be availed for up to two children by an individual employee. Employees governed by Central Civil Services Leave Rules are entitled to 15 days of paternity leave to be availed within six months from the date of delivery of the child. Such a practice of allowing leave to the father is a welcome move to encourage men to take a proactive role in providing support to the new mother and participate in the process of child care.