Discrimination is a phenomenon that is relatively practiced in our society even though it is unlawful and completely unacceptable. Since time immemorial and even in today’s global world women have been victimized to oppression, submission, humility and deference. This subservient attitude of the society can be witnessed in the environment right from the corporate business giants to the smaller working units. One huge example of subjection can be observed universally when women undergo pregnancy.
In spite of this hard to match quality possessed by females, it is difficult for them to maintain their balance between work and maternity. Attracting and retaining female talent is extremely crucial to economic growth as it does not succumb to ethical professional conduct on the part of the employers to alienate and discriminate against women in their workforce. There are several companies which recruit newly married females only after they undergo certain binding conditions and regularities which are totally unacceptable.
The Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 is one such legislation which regulates the employment of women in factories, mines, the circus industry, plantations and shops or establishments which are employing ten or more persons, excluding the employees which are covered under the Employees' State Insurance Act, 1948, for certain periods before and after child-birth and provides for maternity and other benefits.
Features of the Amendment
In order to encourage working women and make sure there is a proper work-life balance, the amendment to the Maternity Benefit was initiated in the recent past to ensure that adequate care is taken of the infant along with ensuring financial stability to the mother, the following amendments in the Maternity Benefit Act, were introduced-
1. Changes in duration of paid Maternity leave: The duration of paid maternity leave for a woman who has less than two surviving children has been increased from 12 weeks to 26 weeks.
2. Introduction of surrogacy leave and adoption leave: Paid adoption leave (if the adopted child is less than three months old) and paid surrogacy leave of 12 weeks from the date of the delivery of the child.
3. Work from home facility: With the consent of the employer and the beneficiary employee, the amendment has introduced the option of working from home, after the completion of the maternity leave.
4. Crèche facility: The amendment makes it mandatory for each establishment with 50 or more employees to have a crèche facility, where childcare is taken during working hours, along with allowing the working mother to visit her baby 4 times in a day.
5. Obligation of the employer to notify his employees: Employers are also required to inform the women employee about benefits available to her under the Maternity Benefit Act. This needs to be done in writing and electronically, at the time of the woman's initial appointment.
Key concepts introduced in the Amendment
1. The maternity benefit Act 1961 protects the employment of women during the time of her maternity and entitles her of a 'maternity benefit' - i.e. full paid absence from work to take care of her child, as early childhood is crucial for the growth and development of the child and cannot be lost at the cost of subjecting the women to work.
2. The amendment further seeks to extend the maternity benefits to commissioning mothers and adopting mothers, too who are also entitled to twelve weeks of maternity benefit from the date the child is handed over to them.
3. Every establishment shall intimate in writing and electronically to every woman at the time of her initial appointment about the benefits available to her under the Act.
Several behavioral patterns were observed when the mother did not spend much time with the infant at an early age. This style of parenting frequently endangers high level of resistance and is at risk behavior in the adolescent.
The implications of this are that of high stress levels, which can have long term implications on child development.
To rule out these difficult endeavours faced by women during maternity, this legislation regulates the employment of women in certain establishments during certain period of time before and after the birth of the child and to provide for maternity benefit and certain other benefits providing relief to the women during this sensitive time period.
Also, parenting involves not only the mother but also has a lot to do with the role the father, Provisions should be made to ensure certain relief and benefit are introduced for the father as well in the Act.
Parenting is one of the most difficult job in the world as parents play a vital role in bringing up future leaders. It’s necessary to ensure that the governing law provides certain norms to support such social issues.
Moreover, if the female workforce is utilised well, under such benefits very soon we may be able to see our GDP soring high, thus the Maternity Benefit Act works as a bright future for women who hope to work in India.