Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India, addressed UN General Assembly’s general debate on 26th September. He outlined how India has moved forward within past years in all possible sectors. The world’s largest democracy is moving ahead with motive of ‘Self-reliant India’ and keeping health of women in priority by providing them paid maternity leave of 26 weeks. He also mentioned that 600 million people have been freed from open defecation and about 500 million people were given access to healthcare.
“We are moving forward with the vision of self-reliant India”. A self-reliant India will push the global economy. During this pandemic, pharma industries of India have delivered necessary medicines and healthcare services to more than 150 countries’ said Prime Minister Modi.
He further added, “India is one of those countries that provide paid maternity leave for 26 weeks to women.“ By highlighting the transgender community, he stated, “In India, the rights of transgender community is also secured through legal reforms.“
Modi celebrated the initiative of paid maternity leave of 26 weeks in his address that was launched in 2017 under his government and gave India the global recognition as a developing country.
The Maternity Leave Act
India is a developing country and introduced the first maternity leave benefit act in 1961. This made sure to provide 12 weeks paid leave to women employees for the post delivery period. It applies to all kind of women employees working under contract or permanent basis or even engaged with some agencies. Lot of amendments was made when it was further introduced as the maternity (Amendment) bill 2017.
The act is eligible for establishments like factories, corporates, mines, plantations, shops and establishment acts and government establishments. Since these are the possible workplaces that enrolls a woman as an employee and has to provide them such facilities. Going more deep into this, women employees that fits in this act are the ones who have completed working for 80 days in the current working establishment in the last 12 months. The remuneration given to the women employee during such leave is not the exact amount and is calculated on the basis of the average daily wage for the period of absence.
The maternity (amendment) bill 2017 came with some positive changes, like the 12 week time period got extended to 26 weeks. The permanent employees have this option to divide it as pre and post-delivery leave. Whereas women expecting their third child are allotted leave for 12 weeks in total. A 23 year old female advertising head in a leading advertising company said, “the pregnancy is not an easy period. Work from home is given or can be preferred sometimes according to the requirement and job profiles and the amendment came up with a good and assuring change with the extension of paid maternity leave for women employees across the establishments.“
It’s been 2 years since the act with amendment has been imposed in the workplaces and during the conversation with women employees from different establishments expressed their opinions and satisfactions on the act.
“I work in a private sector as a HR Manager and getting paid maternity leave is very satisfying for me and my family. The extension definitely helped lot of women because several complications comes during this particular period“, said 35 year old Meenakshi.
“I am a government employee and am very proud of this act. Giving priority to women health especially during this condition is what exactly we needed from last many years“, said 50 year old Rita.
Meanwhile in a conversation with a 30 year old female worker at factory, she wasn’t properly aware about the facility but was happy while getting informed about it.
According to the news agency PTI, India stands at third position globally in terms of the number of weeks of maternity leave along with Canada at first (50 weeks) and Norway at second (44 weeks). Women are always seen struggling for their basic rights in communities, workplaces or any possible space. Similarly, women health is also negligible and is not given deserving importance. “In all parts of the world, working women who become pregnant are faced with the threat of job loss, suspended earnings and increased health risks due to inadequate safeguards for their employment,” says F. J. Dy-Hammar, Chief, ILO Conditions of Work Branch, who oversaw the report, Maternity Protection at Work.
Women are one of the vital sources of income in families and contribute proportionally in the economy of nation. According to the international labor organization report, currently participation of women in global labor force is nearly about 49%. The number is almost equal to men and still in some countries; the kind of basic facilities required by a woman is yet to be accepted by the government.
Workplace is considered as one of the difficult space for the women and is believed to be headed by men. India is the country where patriarchy exists not only among rural people but also between but also in urban society. Bringing policies like paid maternity leave that too with positive amendments for the women community is something to be appreciated and see it as a one step towards the change.
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