ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Gender-neutral Parental Leave

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The push to protect employed women through extended maternity leave may have unintended consequences that may be counterproductive. The recent Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Bill 2016 seeks to increase paid maternity leave from the existing 12 weeks to 26 weeks. It is a welcome move towards increasing the work security of female employees but the law alone may not be able to fulfil this objective if it ignores the possibility of a disincentive to hire women. While designing any such policy, it is important that no grounds are created for employers to associate higher costs with employing women workers.

Let us look at the change in incentives that comes out of such a policy of paid parental leave. In general, one can argue that without paid maternity leave, prospective or young mothers are likely to exit the labour force. To protect working women, this is a welcome move to start with. Such measures are crucial as we move away from the extended family system. The secured leave is also important for the child’s health and well-being allowing for requisite time for breastfeeding and parental bonding. A number of studies document that early nurturing goes a long way in improving child’s cognitive and non-cognitive abilities. This pays off for society as a whole.

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