Did you know that India ranks third on the list of countries with longest maternity leave yet only 45% infants are being breastfed within an hour of birth and just 65% are being exclusively breastfed as per WHO recommendations in India. The recently amended Maternity Benefits Act has increased the duration of maternity leave available for women employees from the existing 12 weeks to 26 weeks
Laws to support a working new mother
- 26 weeks maternity benefit leave i.e.8 weeks before the expected delivery date and extending up to 18 weeks after the child birth (Sec 5 (3).
- Rs.3500 Maternity Bonus per maternity (Sec 8)
- 6 weeks Leave for Miscarriage or medical termination of pregnancy,immediately following the day of her miscarriage
- 2 weeks of leave for woman undergoing tubectomy (surgical procedure for sterilization) operation from the date of such operation (Sec 9 & 9A)
- 4 weeks post maternity leave of 12 weeks, in case of “illness arising out of pregnancy, delivery, premature birth of child, miscarriage, medical termination of pregnancy or tubectomy operation , supported by a Medical Certificate (Sec 10)
- 2 breaks of prescribed duration for nursing the child until the child attains the age of fifteen months on returning to work, in addition to the interval for rest allowed to her, (Sec 11)
- Three month imprisonment which may extend up to one year and with fine not less than two thousand rupees, which may extend up to five thousand rupees as Penalties for contravention of the act by Employers (Sec 21)
Sec 5(4): Significance given to “Commissioning Mother”
“Commissioning mother: A biological mother who uses her egg to create an embryo implanted in any other woman”. This means even if modern medical technology is used via Surrogacy, the biological mother shall get the benefit of maternity leave. However, the entitlement of maternity leave in this case shall be for a period of 12 weeks from the date the child is handed over to her
Sec 5(4): Significance given to “Adopting Mother”
A woman who legally adopts a child below the age of 3 months, shall be entitled to maternity benefit for a period of 12 weeks from the date the child is handed over to her
The point to be driven home here is that “BREASTFEEDING IS A LIFE SAVING ENDEAVOUR” . Breastfeeding is a mother’s priority and responsibility and to be breastfed is a newborn’s birthright. Under no circumstances should these rights be undermined.
It is pity, however, that most working mothers despite being aware of these privileges continue to work throughout the maternity leave and lose on precious time for nurturing and nourishing their babies. What they do not realize is that the money earned at work is lost in managing health and psychological issues of a non-breastfed baby later in life.
Ministry of Women and Child Development, 2015