This little snippet of ‘My View’ will talk briefly about the Amended Maternity Benefit Act 2017.

First of all:
On the one hand the increase in leave to eligible women is to be welcomed. From 12 weeks in the old act to 26 in the amended one is indeed a quantum jump. However I have difficulty with two points. The ESI act also has a maternity benefit for those insured. The widely held belief is that the ESI act covers many more people than the Maternity Benefit act. It is however strange that the maternity benefit offered by the ESI act still remains at 12 weeks while under the amended Maternity Benefit act the same benefit is available for 26 weeks, leading to a confusing situation. The same situation (ie maternity) providing two different paid leave periods, with the disadvantage to those covered by the ESI act. This seems to have resulted either because not enough thought has gone into making the changes, or this was very hurriedly done without sufficient attention being paid to what should have been thought thru.
And secondly:
The amended act says that a creche is to be created by companies with 50 or more employees. It does not specify whether or indeed how many of these employees need to be women. It also says that the creche should be at such distance as prescribed. To date however no distance has been prescribed.  Why have these lacunae been allowed to creep in? I suspect it is our ‘chalta hai’ attitude.
And lastly:
Lest you think that I am pointing out only the faults, let me hasten to correct you. A nursing mother is allowed 2 breaks during work, in addition to the lunch break (under the ESI act) whereas a nursing mother will now be allowed 3 breaks plus the lunch break under the amended act. Some other good points are that the concepts of ‘Commissioning Mother’ {A biological mother who uses her egg to create an embryo implanted in any other woman} and ‘Adopting Mother’ {a woman who adopts a child below the age of 3 months} have been introduced by this act. Both these women can have paid leave for 12 weeks from the date the child is handed over to them.
The other new possibility which has been introduced is that of ‘Working from Home’ which would depend on terms mutually agreed between the employer and the woman in question.
All these mean that those women covered by the ESI act are at a disadvantage when compared to those covered by the Maternity Benefit Act. One can only hope that it will be a matter of a short time before this situation is corrected.
All views expressed are those of the author, not of SIU or SCMHRD or Director Sheorey

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