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Govt to introduce two years’ ‘work from home’ option for women under Maternity Benefits Act

New Delhi: The Modi government wants to not only double the maternity leave for all working women to 26 weeks, but also introduce an option to work from home for up to two years under the Maternity Benefit Act, says a report in The Telegraph.

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Interestingly, the amendments will be applicable to the private sector also.

In a cabinet note, the labour ministry has proposed the changes to the Maternity Benefits Act. The Act at present allows for 12 weeks of maternity leave with pay. Employers will be encouraged to include the 26-week leave and work from home options in new contracts.

“This tenure has to be mutually agreeable. It is an option that the employer and employee can look at. We suggested this for lactating mothers who would want to breastfeed their infants.

“Also, the first two years of a child’s life with a mother is very important. So, we want companies to be flexible in this regard,” said an official of the labour ministry to The Telegraph.

The proposal is expected to be signed on Thursday by the labour minister and circulated for inter-ministerial consultations. The ministry had earlier shot down a proposal for a 32-week leave.

But the women and child development ministry, headed by Maneka Gandhi, is expected to make another push for the 32-week leave proposal. The labour ministry’s objection is that this might deter empployers from hiring women.

At present, maternity leave is restricted to 3 months in the private sector. Under an order in 2008, central government employees are eligible to take six months’ maternity leave.

The ministry is also seeking to make it mandatory for companies employing more than 50 personnel to have a crèche within a one-kilometre radius to enable mothers to visit their infants easily and regularly, says the report.

There will be an option for crèche pooling. Offices in close vicinity can come together and have one crèche for their employees. This will be applicable to only those that don’t have too many women employees.

“However, in case of pooling, companies should make sure that the distance between each office and the crèche is not more than a kilometre,” the official said to The Telegraph.

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