Maternity protection is a fundamental human right and an indispensable element of comprehensive work–family policies. It is crucial to promoting maternal and child health and preventing discrimination against women in the workplace.
Governments of different countries have to make national maternity leave laws for new mothers that confirm to the International Labour Organisation (ILO)’s Maternity Protection Convention, 2000 (No. 183), its accompanying Recommendation (No. 191) and the Workers with Family Responsibilities Convention, 1981 (No. 156). ( ILO, 2014)
There are 3 elements in any maternity leave policy –
- Duration of the maternity leave (which should be minimum 14 weeks as per standard established by Convention No. 183.)
- Amount of cash benefits or proportion of the mother’s pre-maternity salary that the employer needs to give during maternity leave
- Financing mechanism of the maternity leave , which could be social insurance, employer-liability, State-funded, shared between employee and employer, or any combination of the above.
Cross-country evidence shows that if Government mandated paid maternity leave is longer than
140 days (20 weeks) or if financing it is the sole liability of the employer, then it acts as a
disincentive to hire women. India’s Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act, 2017 mandates employer-financed leave of 26 weeks (182 days). The below table shows that India has the longest employer-funded maternity leave.