What is maternity leave?

Maternity leave is a period of time (usually a few months) that a mother takes off from her job following the birth of her child. The mother receives paid leave during maternity, depending on her employer’s policies. It is designed to give a mother time to bond with her newborn and adjust to her new role as a parent.

Benefits

Maternity leaves are a crucial step in the life of every woman. It gives new mothers a chance to bond with their babies, which can help them adjust post-pregnancy. 

  • Bonding time with baby: Maternity leave allows mothers to bond with their newborn baby and establish a secure attachment. This is incredibly important for the baby’s emotional and physical development and overall well-being.
  • Improved Health: The time off from work can help a new mother recover from birth and establish a healthy routine for herself and her baby. It can also help a new mother build her strength and stamina and allow her to get enough rest and nourishment.
  • More secure job: Maternity leave also assures a mother won’t lose her job due to taking time off for a baby. This can provide peace of mind for new mothers and help them feel secure in their jobs.
  • Improved Mental Health: Maternity leave allows pregnant women to rest and relax before the baby arrives, leading to improved mental health and well-being. 

Maternity leave applies to 

  • Eligibility: In India, maternity leave is available to all women employees who have completed a minimum of 80 days of continuous employment in the 12 months prior to the expected date of delivery. All women( pregnant, surrogate, adoptive, miscarriage) are eligible. The Act applies to all establishments where 10 or more people are employed.
  • Increment: The Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act, 2017, has increased the leave entitlement for female employees from 12 weeks to 26 weeks.
  • Leave for commissioning mothers: Commissioning mothers are now eligible for 12 weeks of leave as per the Act.
  • Extension to adoptive mothers: Adoptive mothers are now eligible for 12 weeks of leave.
  • Creche facility: The government has also mandated that all companies with more than 50 employees must have a crèche facility. 
  • For the third child: Maternity leave for the third child has been increased to 12 weeks.
  • Work from home: Employees have the option to choose work-from-home after their leave only upon employer agreement.

Challenges for employers

Maternity leaves are a statutory right under the Maternity Benefit Act 1961. This law ensures that pregnant women have safe and healthy working conditions. However, are some of the challenges that you may face are:

  • Finding suitable temporary cover: Employers need to find a suitable replacement to cover an employee’s work on maternity leave. This can be challenging, as the employer needs to find an individual with the required skill set and experience to fit into the role quickly.  
  • Maintaining morale: When an employee is on maternity leave, it can be difficult to maintain morale in the workplace. This may cause resentment from co-employees who must take on additional responsibility.
  • Loss of productivity: When a new mother takes maternity leave, her workload must be re-allocated to other employees. This can lead to a decrease in overall productivity as employees must adjust to new tasks and processes.
  • Difficulty Recruiting and Retaining Employees: The lack of a maternity leave policy can make attracting and retaining high-quality employees difficult.

 

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