MATERNITY (BENEFIT) AMENDMENT ACT,2017
“The respect and protection of woman and of maternity should be raised to the position of an inalienable social duty and should become one of the principles of human morality”.
– Maria Montessori
Women in India have faced discrimination in every sector, whether at work or in other pursuits, from ancient times. Our culture is dominated by men, with men functioning as the sole breadwinner for their families. Women are never permitted to choose their subject of interest at their parents’ or in-laws’ households. This exemplifies the essence of patriarchy.
Due to economic constraints, more women are leaving their homes to contribute to their families’ income. Nowadays, every woman has her own internet company to pursue her passion and possibly contribute to the family’s income. Women are expected to multitasking, work in offices, and care for their children. As a result, giving specific benefits to females in workplaces has become a priority.
RECENT CHANGES AND MAJOR FEATURES OF ACT
The Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act of 2017 went into effect on April 1, 2017, modifying important aspects of the Maternity Benefit Act of 1961. The Amended Act’s primary sections increase the length of maternity leave while also requiring businesses to comply with a number of regulations.
Modifications to the maternity benefit-
Paid maternity leave for women working in companies with ten or more employees has been increased from 12 to 26 weeks. Furthermore, the woman employee must take no more than 8 weeks of absence before to her projected delivery date.  A mother with two or more children will not be eligible for the extended maternity leave, and will instead be limited to 12 weeks of paid maternity leave of which not more than 6 weeks shall precede the date of her expected delivery.
Adoption of a child
Under the Amended Act, working women who adopt a baby under the age of three months, as well as commissioning mothers who utilize a surrogate to conceive a child, will be entitled to 12 weeks of maternity leave.
Work from home
After 26 weeks of maternity leave, employers may explore a “work from home” option for nursing moms, depending on the job profile and criteria mutually agreed upon by the business and the concerned woman employee.
Every company with 50 or more employees is obligated to provide a facility, either separately or in association with other on-site services. The concerned female employee must be allowed four visits to the crèche during working hours. These visits must include the female employee’s rest break.
PROVISIONS OF CONSTITUTION ON MATERNITY
The right to equality (Article 14), the right to social equality (Article 15), and the right to social equality in the workplace are all rights and benefits that benefit women (Article 16), Article 39(a) ensures a sufficient standard of living, while Article 39(d) ensures equal remuneration for equal effort.
Article 39(e) ensures that employees’ health and strength are not exploited, that they have the right to equitable and humane working conditions and maternity leave (Article 42), and that they have the right to improve working women’s employment options and conditions (Article 46).
OBSTACLES IN THE WAY’S OF THE IMPLEMENTATION
There are other obstacles in putting the Act into action. Despite companies intentionally attempting to become more gender-friendly, there are still frequent incidents of female employees being harassed for disclosing their pregnancy. Furthermore, while the Act says that a woman cannot be fired or discriminated against because she is on maternity leave, and that her remuneration should be equal to the average of her daily wage, employers frequently ignore this provision.
This Act has also been criticized in general. It appears to meet the demands of corporate working women, who account for a small percentage of all working women, but not those of women who work in the informal sector. Around 90% in the unorganized sector, this has lead to violation of their rights.
The Indian government’s welcoming attitude of expanding the time period from 12 to 26 weeks has put India on the map and has been hailed for its flexibility for women in the workforce. Women have benefited from this extended leave option because it allows them to discriminate between personal and professional commitments, allowing them to spend more time to their work.
Other faults in the act, however, have been consistently highlighted. The government should assess the situation and provide a solution to all related concerns, which would be extremely beneficial in addressing the issues.