Improved maternity benefits could prove counterproductive: Survey

• A little over one year after India increased the maternity leave benefit to 26 weeks from 12 weeks, a survey said the move could be counterproductive to the cause of a diverse workplace in certain sectors unless other support measures are also undertaken.

==> Survey Finding

• According to a survey on the costs and benefits of the new regulations by leading employment services company TeamLease.

• At least 26 per cent of the 350 startups and small and medium enterprises (SMEs) that responded said they will prefer hiring a male candidate, given the cost of the six-month maternity leave benefit.

• About 40 per cent of respondents said they will hire women but will consider whether such a cost is worth the candidate.

• However, 39 per cent of organisations said the move will have a positive impact and will lead to a happier workforce but 35 per cent of the respondents said that the six-month maternity leave will impact both cost and profitability.

==> Issue

• When organisations do have a policy of non-discrimination in hiring, the recruiting manager could take a short-term view.

• Therefore, just changing the law is not enough; reinforcements are needed at multiple levels.

==> Suggestions

• Getting more companies into the organised fold will help.

• A helpline for women who are being denied their rights will aid the cause

==> Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act, 2017

• The Maternity (Amendment) Bill 2017,an amendment to the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961, was passed in Lok Sabha on March 09, 2017 , in Rajya Sabha on August 11, 2016 and received an assent from President of India on March 27,2017.

• 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 for her child. The act is applicable to all establishments employing 10 or more persons.

• The Maternity Benefit Amendment Act has increased the duration of paid maternity leave available for women employees from the existing 12 weeks to 26 weeks.

• The Maternity Benefit Amendment Act has also introduced an enabling provision relating to “work from home” for women, which may be exercised after the expiry of the 26 weeks’ leave period. Depending upon the nature of work, women employees may be able to avail this benefit on terms that are mutually agreed with the employer.

• The Maternity Benefit Amendment Act makes it mandatory for employers to educate women about the maternity benefits available to them at the time of their appointment.

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