The Indian parliament has passed a historic bill to raise the amount of paid maternity leave available to new mothers with the benefit set to last for 26 weeks instead of 12.
"This is my humble gift to women, a day after the world celebrated the International Women's Day," Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya said yesterday, following a four-hour debate.
The new law will apply to all organisations with at least 10 employees but women will only be allowed to take the 26 weeks for their first two children – for the third child, they entitlement will remain at 12 weeks.
The measure means India now sits third in the global leader-board for best maternity benefits behind Canada and Norway which offer 50 weeks and 44 weeks respectively.
As well as bolstering the amount of paid leave for new mothers, the bill provides 12 weeks’ leave to women who legally adopt a child below three months of age and also to any woman who has used her own egg to have a child born via surrogate.
In such cases, the 12-week period of leave will be calculated from the date the child is handed over to the adoptive or biological mother.
The bill also requires every establishment with 50 or more employees to provide crèche facilities within a prescribed distance and grants women the right to visit the crèche four times per day.
While the law will not apply to those working in the unorganised sector – defined in India as informal employment within businesses with fewer than 10 employees – some 1.8 million women are still expected to benefit from the update.