Maternity Leave in India

Maternity Leave in India

This article deals with ‘ Maternity Leave in India .’ This is part of our series on ‘Society’ which is an important pillar of the GS-1 syllabus. For more articles, you can click here.

Maternity Leave in India


Maternity leave is a period of break from work given to a mother before and after the birth of her child. It aims to provide a period for the mother to recover from childbirth and bond with the newborn child.

Although the provisions vary in different countries, mothers are paid a certain portion of their salary or unemployment benefits during this period.  

Present Situation of Maternity Leave in India

Article 42

  • Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP) directs the state to provide Maternity leave.

Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act,2016 

  • A women employee who has worked in the same place for at least 160 days in the 12 months preceding her delivery is eligible for maternity benefits. 
  • Women employees can go on leave for 26 weeks — during which they are paid 100 per cent of their salary (earlier, it was 12 weeks)
  • 12 weeks of paid leave to mothers adopting or having a child through surrogacy
  • However, the amendment to the Act doesn’t cover a vast majority of the women workforce employed in the informal sector in India. (According to the planning commission, over 93 per cent of the women workforce in India are employed in the informal sector)
  • All establishments with 30 women workers or 50 total workers should provide crèche facilities for their employees, either at the premises or within half a kilometer
  • The entitlement applies only to the first two children. For the third child, the maternity leave entitlement will only be 12 weeks.

Why Maternity Leave is required?

  • Post-natal leave must be increased owing to factors such as
    1. An increasing number of late marriages
    2. Increase in Caesarean births.
    3. Urbanization and transition towards the nuclear family structure => Hence, nobody is at home to take care of the newborn child.
  • International studies have established a direct link between greater maternity leave duration and lower infant mortality rates.

How women suffer in its absence?

  • In the absence of maternity leave, women have to face dismissals.   
  • In a fast and competitive world, women are delaying pregnancy owing to very less maternity leave & getting pregnant at 35+ age which has increased the proportion of genetically defective children. 
  • According to experts, with anaemia still affecting a large number of Indian women and with lifestyles changing and increasingly stressful jobs, at least six months are needed to ensure better recovery for the mother and the nutritional health of the child.

What more needs to be done?

  • More than 93% of working women are in the informal sector, where these maternal benefits don’t extend. Policy to include these women in Maternity Leave benefits should be thought upon. 
  • Implementing maternity benefits is a real challenge. Concerns have already been voiced that such laws and rules will only prevent employers from hiring women or push more women workers into informal contracts. 
  • Singapore way: Women in the city-state get 16 weeks of maternity leave, with the employer paying for eight weeks and the next eight reimbursed to the employer by the government. In India, this could be a way to avoid a collision with the private sector and ensure that women don’t have to bear the brunt of a move that may be unpopular with their employers. 
  • It should be extended to paternity leave as well. Companies like Facebook are giving 4 months of paternity leave across world offices, and developed nations like Sweden, Iceland, Norway, Portugal, and Germany are also providing this. It will enhance the idea of equally shared parenting fast.  

Side Topic: Paternity Leave

  • Paternity leave is a period of break from work given to a father after the birth or adoption of a child.  It aims to provide a period for the fathers to bond with their new child and support their partner during the postpartum period.
  • Central Government Employees can avail of 15-day paternity leave for the first two children.
  • There is no legal provision regarding paternity leave by private companies. But some private companies offer such leaves. E.g.,
    1. Zomato gives 26 months of paternity leave.
    2. Ikea gives 26 months of paternity leave.
    3. BCCI gives Paternity leave if players demand it.  

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