The passing of the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Bill, 2016, by the Rajya Sabha on Thursday, increasing maternity leave from the present 12 weeks to 26 weeks, is welcome. It is unbecoming of a modern democracy to not give due consideration to the health consequences of inadequate leave provisions for the mother and newborn child. And forcing women to make a choice between having children and being part of the workforce harms the economy.
The majority of studies carried out on the issue in countries with paid maternity leave policies show that there seem to be no negative consequences for businesses—and significant health upsides for both the mother and child as well as a greater chance of the former returning to full employment.
Here’s the truly interesting part, though—women lawmakers also sought paternity leave norms on Thursday. That would truly be a move towards gender equality and against the rigid roles that place the onus of childcare entirely on the mother.