Parliament passed the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Bill, 2016 with Lok Sabha approving it today. the Bill was already cleared by Rajya Sabha earlier. The bill seeks to enhance paid maternity leave for women engaged in organised sector from 12 weeks to 26 weeks for two surviving children.
It will be applicable to mines, factories and all establishments employing 10 or more people. In his reply to the debate on the Bill in the Lok Sabha, Minister of Labour and Employment Bandaru Dattatreya said the amendment has job, wages and social security aspects as its integral parts.
He said violation of the provisions of the amendment bill would attract 3 to 6 months of imprisonment and a penalty of up to Rs 5000.
The amendment would take India ahead of many other nations in terms of the leave period as part of maternity benefits, exceeding the benefit being granted by countries such as Germany, France, Japan and the UK. Responding to the concerns raised by many members during the debate, Mr Dattatreya promised that unorganised sector employees will all be gradually brought under the social security network.
He said the Government would bring all unorganized sector workers under the ambit of the Employees Provident Fund and the Employees State Insurance Corporation in a phased manner. He added, the Government has brought the nearly 4.7 crore people involved in construction sector under the social security network. He informed the House, the ESIC scheme would be expanded across the country covering all 702 districts as against 395 districts now.
He also said 450 ESIC dispensaries would be upgraded into six-bedded hospitals throughout the nation in the coming years. He also assured that inter-ministerial coordination for ensuring social security to all the labour force would be ensured.
The Bill requires every establishment with 50 or more employees to provide for crèche facilities close by. Earlier, initiating the debate, Sushmita Dev of Congress termed the bill as significant saying, it will have social and economic impact. Dr Pritam Gopinath Munde of BJP suggested for inclusion of provisions of paternity leave too.
During a discussion on the Maternity Benefits (Amendment) Bill, 2016 in the Lok Sabha, Trinamool MPs, Ms. Ratna De Nag and Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar suggested to the Union Labour Minister to extend the maternity benefits to the unorganised sector also. Ms. Ratna De Nag said, Women in unorganized sector, including government front-end workers – like Asha workers, who provided maternal healthcare linkage to all women, mid-day meal workers, Anganwadi worker and helpers, women working under MGNREGA – do not get any wage compensation during pregnancy and childhood.
They also stressed upon the importance of nutrition for mothers and infants. Ms. Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar highlighted the ‘Mother and Child Hubs’ in Bengal that provide care to pregnant women in the last trimester. She also demanded that surrogate mothers and single mothers also be given maternity benefits.
Citing the example of Bengal, where paternity leave of 30 days is given, both the MPs asked the Centre to start paternity leaves for men folk. Ms. Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar also called for setting up a Supervisory Body with Labour Ministry, Women and Child Development Ministry and the Health Ministry. Ms. Ratna De Nag asked for a monitoring system and grievance redressed mechanism for non-implementation of the Act.