Maternity Benefits Act yet to have positive impact on women labour force participation: Report

Employers reported that lack of awareness about the act, increase in the cost and increased burden on fellow employees are some of the fallouts of the act.

The Maternity Benefits (Amendment) Act 2017 is yet to have a positive impact on women labour force participation as out of the 10 sectors reviewed women participation has dropped in more than five sectors since the implementation of the act, says a report.

According to a TeamLease Report, Maternity Benefits (Amendment) Act 2017 has not helped in improving women labour force participation.

The dipstick survey with 337 employers representing 10 sectors (Aviation, BFSI, BPO/ITeS, Ecommerce, Education, IT, Manufacturing, Real Estate, Retail, Tourism) were included in the study. The survey was carried out during the month of June and July, 2020.

Lack of awareness about the act, increase in the cost and increased burden on fellow employees are some of the fallouts that employers are attributing to the act, the report said.

Moreover, time spent on domestic duties, social stigma against women in employment and regressive attitude of employers are some of the main reasons cited by women for choosing to stay away from work.

"The act was a very bold and progressive move towards encouraging female workforce participation. However, India is still among the bottom 10 countries in the world in terms of women's workforce participation. Women's Labour Force Participation Rate (LFPR) for India stands at 20.52 per cent in FY 2019-20 compared to 20.71 per cent in FY 2018-19," said Rituparna Chakraborty, Executive Vice President and Co-Founder, TeamLease Services.

"In fact, the participation of women in urban areas wherein more than 55 per cent are salaried is far poorer than rural women who are self-employed indicating the poor response to the act," Chakraborty said.

A comprehensive analysis covering the views of all the stakeholder including male employees, as per the study around 36 per cent of the male respondents felt the act was one sided. They also were of the opinion (45 per cent of the respondent) that both parents should get paid leave for childcare.

According to Chakraborty, weighing the burden of change on corporates alone will not be effective, it will require a comprehensive approach.

"The speedy passing of the proposed changes like the incentive scheme wherein seven weeks wages would be reimbursed to employers who employ women workers with wage ceiling up to Rs 15,000 and provide the maternity benefit of 26 weeks paid leave coupled with widespread campaigns to highlight certain deep-rooted societal challenges that women face will improve the efficacy of the act," she added.