India – Parliament passes bill to raise maternity leave to 26 weeks

India's parliament has passed a law that increases paid maternity leave from 12 to 26 weeks, a decision which will benefit around 1.8 million women.

The law will apply to all establishments employing 10 or more people and the entitlement will be for the first two children. For the third child, the entitlement will be 12 weeks. Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya said the law was "a humble gift" to women.

India now gives the third longest duration of fully paid maternity leave in the world, behind Canada and Norway, which give 50 and 44 weeks respectively.

This amendment is a progressive, long-overdue accomplishment that indicates social and economic advancement, holding tremendous benefits for the working women in India's job market. Even prior to this, several organisations recognised the sheer necessity of supporting their female employees through motherhood. Some companies had been offering six months of maternity leave well before the amendment of the policy came into consideration.

In today's marketplace, where hiring and retaining a skilled work force is one of the greatest challenges faced by organisations across industries, having qualified employees wanting to return to their jobs after an extended leave should be seen as a huge positive rather than a burden. With the new policy in place, employers can actively plan ahead to be prepared for long absences thus averting any negative impact it may have on the organisation's overall goals. This will also enable them to ensure a smooth transition, making it easier for women to be reabsorbed by the company when they finally return to work. According to `Second Innings', a survey report by CII's Indian Women's Network (IWN), 37 per cent of women opt out of their jobs midcareer due to maternity or childcare issues.

Besides the obvious tangible benefits, this policy will have an immensely positive effect on the mind-set of working women. In fact, it will lead to a healthier, happier, family friendly work culture leading to increased levels of employee engagement and in turn, will help boost their performance.

The bill also requires every establishment with 50 or more employees to provide crèche facilities within a prescribed distance. The woman will be allowed four visits to the crèche a day. This will include her interval for rest. It has also made a provision under which an employer can permit a woman to work from home, if the nature of work assigned permits. Observing that labour falls in the Concurrent List, the minister appealed to states to ensure all benefits reach women. It has also made a provision under which an employer can permit a woman to work from home, if the nature of work assigned permits.

Observing that labour falls in the Concurrent List, the minister appealed to states to ensure all benefits reach women.