The Maternity Benefit Bill, 2016 was passed by the Lok Sabha on the 9th of March commemorating International Women’s Day and now increased the maternity leave allowance to 26 weeks. The bill has been passed months after the Rajya Sabha approved the measure that takes India to the third position in terms of the number of weeks for maternity leave after Canada and Norway where it is 50 weeks and 44 weeks respectively.

Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya said “This is my humble gift to women, a day after the world celebrated the International Women’s Day”

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Among all the features of the Bill, the most important feature of note is that women working in organised sectors will now be entitled to to paid maternity leave of 26 weeks, up from 12 weeks.  This will benefit 1.8 million working women in India. The new law will be applicable for all establishments employing more than 10 or more people and the entitlement will be for only upto two children. For third child, the entitlement will be for only 12 weeks.

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The minister said the the amendments were “progressive” in nature and would have “positive impact” on women participation and improve their “work life balance”.

This is India’s “one small step” towards providing equal opportunities for women and is highly commendable.