Taking note of several reports which indicated a decrease in the recruitment of women workers owing to an increase in maternity leaves, the government has decided to pay 50 per cent of the salary of 14 weeks to women on maternity leave.
Earlier, under the Maternity Benefit Act, women were given paid leave for 12 weeks which was extended to 26 weeks after an amendment in March 2017. Taking off some monetary burden from the employers, the government decided to dutch in by paying 50 per cent salary to women on maternity leave for the extended 14 weeks.
According to Women and Child Development Ministry sources, an official level meeting was held on Wednesday with the Labour Ministry where it was proposed that the unutilised amount of cess will be used to reimburse the maternity benefit.
As per 28th report of the Standing Committee on Labour on "Cess funds and their utilization for workers' welfare", Rs. 32,632.95 crore has been collected as cess out of which Rs 7,516.52 crore has been utilized as on March 31, 2017.
"The pending amount has been decided to be utilized for the maternity benefit scheme. The disbursement of the amount will be done by the state authority under the direction of the Labour Ministry," a WCD official said.
Any women with a monthly salary of above Rs. 15,000 will be eligible for the benefit.
As per sources, the initiative was taken by the WCD Minister Maneka Gandhi after her Ministry received several reports that noted a decrease in the percentage of labour participation among women in offices, especially corporate sectors, owing to the extension of maternity leaves.
"We came across many cases where either the women was asked to leave the office owing to maternity or faced troubles in resuming office after leave. Adhering to all these issues, our (WCD) Minister Maneka Gandhi had approached the Labour Ministry who agreed to the concern and suggested to use the unutilized cess fund," the official said.
As per WCD, a notification on official level will be soon released, to be adhered by both public and private companies.