Context: Data on the provision of mandatory crèche services at establishments is not maintained centrally. The complaints received for violation of the provision of the Act by respective Governments are dealt with as per the provisions of the Act.
In March 2017, Parliament passed the Maternity Benefit Amendment Act, 2017, enhancing paid maternity leave from a period of 12 weeks to 26 weeks. The law is applicable to all institutions with 10 or more employees. It also makes it mandatory for every organization with 50 or more employees to have a crèche.
The guidelines include:
A crèche be either at the workplace or within 500 meters of it. Alternatively, it could also be in the beneficiaries’ neighborhood.
The facility should be open for eight to 10 hours and if the employees have a shift system, then the crèche should also be run accordingly.
A crèche must have a minimum space of 10 to 12 square feet per child to ensure that she or he can play, rest and learn. There should be no unsafe places such as open drains, pits, garbage bins near the centre.
The crèches should have at least one guard, who should have undergone police verification. There should also be at least one supervisor per crèche and a trained worker for every 10 children under three years of age or for every 20 children above the age of three, along with a helper.
No outsiders such as plumbers, drivers, electricians are allowed inside the crèche when children are present.
A crèche monitoring committee with representations from among crèche workers, parents and administration should be formed.
There should also be a grievance redressal committee for inquiring into instances of sexual abuse.
The Maternity Benefit Act:
The Maternity Benefit Act, 1961, applies to establishments employing 10 or more than 10 persons in factories, mines, plantation, shops & establishments, and other entities.
The main purpose of this Act is to regulate the employment of women in certain establishments for certain period before and after childbirth and to provide maternity benefit and certain other benefits.
The Act was amended through the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act, 2017.
The amendment has brought in major changes to the law relating to maternity benefits. These are:
It extends the period of maternity benefit from 12 weeks to 26 weeks of which not more than eight weeks can precede the date of the expected delivery. This exceeds the International Labour Organisation’s minimum standard of 14 weeks and is a positive development. However, a woman who has two or more surviving children will be entitled to 12 weeks of which not more than six weeks can precede the date of the expected delivery.
Women who legally adopt a child below the age of three months or a “commissioning mother” will be entitled to maternity benefit for 12 weeks from the date on which the child is handed over to her. A commissioning mother is defined as a biological mother who uses her egg to create an embryo implanted in another woman.
It gives discretion to employers to allow women to work from home after the period of maternity benefit on mutually agreeable conditions.
It introduces a provision which requires every establishment to intimate a woman at the time of her appointment of the maternity benefits available to her.