Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi’s inbox was flooded with over 200 e-mails from curious and expectant parents a day after Rajya Sabha revised the maternity leave from 12 weeks to 26 weeks. Women at various stages of pregnancy, expectant fathers and adoptive mothers were among those who wrote to the minister to find out if they will be benefit from the passage of the Bill passed by the Upper House last week.
Maternity Benefit Amendment Bill 2016 was passed in Rajya Sabha on the penultimate day of the Monsoon Session. The following day, the last day of the session, the Bill was not scheduled listed in the Lok Sabha’s order paper. Maneka Gandhi expressed her dismay and told reporters, “To our utter disappointment and much irritation the Bill did not come into Lok Sabha. So, now we will have to wait for Winter Session.”
Meanwhile, parents started writing to the minister inquiring about the bill and voicing their concerns. A mother wrote to Maneka, “I am 8 months pregnant and I need to avail maternity leave from 5th September, 2016. When I asked my company for maternity leave benefit, my company management replied that the bill has not been passed. I was also told that even if it is passed it will be implemented from March 2017.”
Another e-mail read, “As my wife is about to deliver a baby I am curious to know when will this Bill be implemented.” A mother of two daughters wrote to the minister expressing her gratitude on behalf of “future mothers”. She wrote, “I may not be able to avail the benefits but I am happy for future mothers.” The amended bill allows adoptive and surrogate mothers to avail 12 weeks’ maternity leave. However, an adoptive mother wrote in to say that it was not sufficient.
In her letter she wrote, “Just wanted to bring to your notice the need for leave for women who adopt children. It’s almost impossible to adopt a baby within three months. We all know that when a child is adopted we need time to bond. Could you please review this ma’am.” Maneka Gandhi wrote back, “I had said that the adoption leave should be as much as the normal birth leave. Unfortunately, the Bill is not in my ministry and the minister did not agree.” Apart from extending maternity leave, the amendment also makes it mandatory for an establishment with more than 50 workers to provide for a creche.