To encourage more women employment, Govt brought Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act, 2017, which allowed paid maternity leave from 12 weeks to 26 weeks for women employees. Unfortunately it had opposite effect and led to fewer women getting hired after the Act was passed.
A survey conducted by LocalCircles reports that “11% businesses saying that they hired only male employees while another 46% said they hired mostly male and a few female employees”. Another study by TeamLease earlier this year also estimated that there would be a net job loss of 11-18 lakh women in the current fiscal as a result of the new norms.
There were several reported instances of employers trying to cut costs by asking female employees to quit after the maternity leave period was more than doubled or retrenching them on flimsy grounds before they went on leave.
The Economic Times reports that the Labour Ministry proposes to reimburse employers the salaries paid for 07 of the additional 14 weeks of maternity leave for female employees in the Rs 15,000 salary bracket who have been EPFO subscribers for 12 months. This would cost the exchequer Rs 400 crore annually.
And “to encourage more women employment, Under Pradhan Mantri Rojgar Protsahan Yojana, the labour ministry may also plan to give fiscal incentives to employers to retain female workers availing 26 weeks of maternity leave,” ET reports.
To evaluate, the policy will start on a pilot basis in New Delhi and Maharashtra and scaled up across India later.
The plan is for employers to bear half the salary payable for the additional 14 weeks of leave provided under the amended Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act, 2017, effective since April 1, 2017.
To be eligible for maternity benefits, a woman must have worked in an establishment for at least 80 days in the past 12 months. Payment during the leave period is based on the average daily wage for the period of actual absence.