Maternity Benefits (Amendment) Act, 2017

Last Updated at: Sep 07, 2020
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When the Maternity Benefits Act was amended in March 2017, paid maternity leave was extended from 12 weeks of paid leave to 26 weeks. The amendment again sparked the discussion around why many startups cannot afford to implement the mandated policy of paid maternity leave.

Maternity Benefits (Amendment) Act, 2017
The benefits include increased paid maternity leave from 12 weeks to 26 weeks for women employees, unless they have two or more surviving children. Further, recognition of the rights of an adopting mother and of a commissioning mother for the first time, who may claim paid maternity leave for 12 weeks. A “work from home” option that may be of benefit after the maternity leave expires.


The implementation of the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act, 2017 — which allows for expanded paid maternity leave from 12 weeks to 26 weeks — makes creches compulsory in businesses with more than 50 workers and advises States under the Factories Act, 1948.


As the number of women employees ballooned within markets in India, maternity benefits became an increasingly common trend initiated for the well-being of both the mother and child. In 1961, the Maternity Benefit Act, which aimed at regulating uniform benefits for women employees was passed by the Indian government. Several international organisations such as the Convention of the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the International Labour Organisation (ILO) recommend a maternity leave of at least 24 weeks for the welfare of both the new mother and the child.

The Amendment

Recently, the Indian government amended and reformed the Maternity Benefit Act to form the Maternity (Amendment) Bill 2017. This amendment was passed in the Rajya Sabha on August 11, 2016, and received consent from the President on March 27, 2017. While the major provisions of The Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act, 2017 had become effective from April 1, 2017, the crèche facility became effective from July 1, 2017.

Need for Maternity Benefits

  1. The primary reason for making maternity benefits available is to help new mothers adjust to their new role, to protect the health of new mothers and to ensure the well-being of the child.
  2. Maternity leave proves to be crucial for strengthening families and inculcating the right values in children.
  3. The present-day world is extremely competitive and in most scenarios we see that both spouses have to work to maintain a decent standard of living. This unavoidable situation has led to more and more women joining the workforce as the years go by leading to them having to juggle multiple roles within the family.
  4. Maternity leave and other such benefits allow women to play these numerous roles well by providing financial support to the family and also allowing them to stay at home during the formative years of the child.


The Act applies to all women who work in establishments which employ 10 or more workers, whether they are engaged directly or through a consultant. Dismissal of a pregnant woman is unlawful, and any employer found guilty of doing such a crime may be punished under section 12 of the Act.
Duration of Leave

The Act increased the length of the paid maternity leaves to 26 weeks from 12 weeks. This period applies to women nurturing their first or second child. Women who are expecting their third child or higher will have a paid maternity leave for a period of 12 weeks which are split in the form of; 6 weeks pre-delivery and six weeks post-delivery.

The Act now extends to even adoptive mothers, and every such mother is liable to receive 12 weeks of paid maternity leave.

Work from Home

The Act has also introduced a ‘work from home’ option for new mothers. Women can now opt to work from home after the end of their stipulated 26 weeks leave period as per the requirement of the employer.


The Act makes it mandatory for factories and shops that employ more than 50 women to have within the factory a creche facility. Women employed here must be permitted to use this facility at least four times.


The Act also makes it compulsory for shop owners and employers to raise awareness about these benefits and ensure that the eligible women are provided with these rights. All such information must be made available to employees either in writing or electronically.

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Major changes

  • Duration of paid maternity leave has been increased to 26 weeks from 12 weeks.
  • The availability of the paid leave has been extended to eight weeks before the expected due date rather than the previous six weeks.
  • Benefits have been extended to adoptive and commissioning mothers.
  • Introduction of a “work from home” option after the expiry of the paid leave period. Terms and conditions of this option have to be negotiated by the employer.
  • Mandatory to have in-house crèche facility in establishments having over 50 employees.
  • Permission to use the creche facility four times a day.
  • Compulsory for employers to educate women about their rights to such benefits.


The raising of paid leave to 26 weeks from 12 weeks is a welcome change that goes in line with the recommended time for such leave as prescribed by the World Health Organisation. This extension will help in nurturing the healthy development of both the new mother and her child. The changes will also ensure that fewer women drop out and remain at home forever bettering the sex-ratio of the workforce.

The amendment also acts in accordance with practices suggested by the Maternity Protection Convention, 2000 which indicates at the minimum 14 weeks of maternity benefits for a new mother. These changes have helped to better India’s rank concerning benefits provided to mothers. India is now third worldwide in the number of benefits offered to women and comes behind only Canada and Norway.


  1. Certain social scientists argue that these changes push forward patriarchy as it shifts the responsibility of childbearing towards the mother.
  2. Many private firms may now refuse to employ women as they will have to extend these privileges to them at the time of childbirth. This will adversely impact the job opportunities available for women.
  3. Various provisions lack clarity making implementation difficult.

Though increasing the maternity benefits available to women is a welcome step, the government needs to ensure that industries do not lose their competitiveness due to these provisions. If the government can bring about more uniformity in labour laws regarding maternity benefits, it would help several women all over India handle the many responsibilities handed out to them.

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