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If you are a young mother, you’ve probably had to haggle for time off from work to attend your child’s PTA meetings or even a Sports Day celebration. It’s not all rosy for fathers who usually quail at the thought of even asking for paternity leave in India, either. “What will happen to my job? Will I lose my advantage if I take 6 months off for paternity leave? I want to be there for my child but will people laugh at me for even asking for paternity leave in India?” These anxieties are common, but most are unwarranted. Knowing what you are entitled to at work as a caregiver is a first and most important step in your journey towards work-life integration.

Get to know more parents rights at work and everything you need to know about paternity leave rules in India.

Maternity leave

The Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 offers prenatal and postnatal benefits for the female employee in institutions and changes have been made in the Act post-2016.

Since 2017, maternity leave has been increased from 12 weeks to 26 weeks. However, a woman with two or more children is entitled to only 12 weeks. Prenatal leave too was lengthened from six weeks to eight weeks. For women with two or more children, prenatal leave stays at six weeks.

The same Act also extends benefits to women who want to adopt children, by providing adoption leave of 12 weeks to women who adopt children below the age of three months. Additionally, a commissioning mother (a biological mother who uses her egg to create an embryo implanted in any other woman) is also entitled to 12 weeks leave from the date the child is handed over to her.

Moreover, the Act necessitates an employer to notify women workers of their rights under the Act at the time of her appointment. The information needs to be given in writing and also via email.

For civil servants, women are allowed maternity leave for a period of 180 days for their first two live-born children.

Pregnancy and other complications

In case of a complicated pregnancy or delivery, premature birth or medical termination of pregnancy, women personnel are entitled to one month paid leave. However, for men who have a tubectomy procedure, they will only get two weeks of additional paid leave.

Women employees who are pregnant cannot be sacked on account of absence for the above reasons and are not to be engaged in work by the employer within six weeks of delivery or miscarriage. If any woman is dismissed, she has the right to claim maternity benefits.

Income

As per the Act, paid maternity leave is granted if the woman has been working for a minimum of 80 days in the company over the past 12 months preceding a woman’s expected date of delivery. Women are also allowed a medical bonus of Rs 3500.

Breastfeeding

Under the Maternity Benefits Act, employers are required to provide nursing breaks of set duration for new mothers so that they can feed breast milk for nursing their child. These nursing breaks are fully paid and can be availed until the child reaches the age of 15 months. However, the duration of these breaks is not provided under the Act.

Crèches

Under the amended Maternity Benefit Law, all establishments that employ 50 or more people have to provide crèche facilities, which should be within 500 meters of the establishment. There should be one crèche for every 30 children between the ages of six months and six years for all employees, and one crèche worker with a helper for every ten children under the age of three and every 20 children aged three to six years. Women employees are allowed to visit the crèche four times a day as per the law.

Paternity leave

India still has a long way to go where paternity leave is concerned. It is among 90 of 187 countries that have no national policy to ensure that new fathers get paid time off as paternity leave to be with their kids. In 2017, Rajiv Satav, a former MP from Maharashtra had proposed a Paternity Benefit Bill in the Lok Sabha, but his efforts came to naught. As of now, there is no provision for paternity leave in India under Indian labour law for private-sector workers. It is a discretionary right of the employer.

However, Central Government employees are entitled to paternity leave. Male Central Government employees with less than two surviving children can be granted paternity leave for a period of 15 days before or up to six months from the date of delivery of the child and they are paid a full salary at this time.

It is not just the law that does not allow fathers to take time off to be a caregiver. The culture of parenthood in India does not encourage fathers to even ask for time off work in order to stay home and take care of a newborn. Fathers often do not speak up and ask for leave when they have kids and this is mainly due to fears that he may not perform what is customarily seen as the “father’s role” – that of a “breadwinner”. Anxieties also abound, as mentioned earlier, about losing one’s job or being “replaced” due to his absence. Societal constructs force fathers to put more of an emphasis on his job and less on being an actual parent.

While the culture among urban fathers is indeed changing, with many young men asking for leave and helping with parenting at home, a lot more needs to be done to engage the father in the role of a caregiver.

For starters, speak up daddies! Set an example and ask for paternity leave. After all, your family is more important than your profession.

Flexible work option for parents

Earlier, there was no stipulation for the flexible work option for workers with minor children and other family obligations. But, under the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act 2017, an employer can allow a woman to work from home after she completes her maternity leave if the nature of the job assigned allows her to do so. However, this must be mutually agreed upon by both the parties

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