The One Liner

Supreme court of India now empowers women through two years of extended leave

In India, motherhood is always seen as a spiritual journey that involves prayers for the mother’s and the child’s wellbeing with customary rituals, and support from the community. 

However, change is always constant, and every law needs a time-tested intervention to determine whether change is possible or not.

Recently, the Supreme Court of India passed the Maternity Benefit Act, which allows women employees to take two years of maternity leave in addition to the mandatory 180 days of maternity leave for mothers with special needs. The Supreme Court of India has asked the Indian government to form a committee in collaboration with various ministries to draft a policy by July 31st, 2024. 

According to a survey, data collected before the country’s Maternity Act was put into effect, 73% of Indian women choose to quit their occupations after giving birth. 48% of those who did return to work left their jobs within four months. There may be many reasons attached to the same, such as work-life balance, lack of guidance from the elderly, affordability issues, etc. But there are also women with children who have special needs and are unable to join the workforce even after 180 days of maternity leave. 

Remember! Participation of women in the workforce is not a privilege; it is their constitutional right. Lack of women’s participation in the workforce can also lead to massive losses to the economy as well. 

Moreover, how many of us have the courage and time to challenge a law in India, unlike Shalini Dharmani? Shalini Dharmani is an assistant professor who requested leave to care for her 14-year-old son, who has a rare genetic disease. The Supreme Court of India granted her request. The court has also ordered the State of Himachal Pradesh to reevaluate its policy regarding childcare leave. A committee was also formed to assess the situation and provide a report by July 31, 2024. 

But why is two-year maternity leave so crucial for all mothers who have children with special needs?

See, this two year maternity leave will not only give women a sense of security by guaranteeing they can take time from work without compromising their financial stability, but it is also essential to understand that there are many surveys that show that there are many women who face severe anxieties about their money post-childbirth. 

And look, here is the math behind the same: from buying napkins to baby oil to everyday food, everything comes with a cost, which only adds to the bill.  

Extended leaves will help parents strengthen their relationships with their children, giving them unbroken time to provide emotional support and nurture during their early years and even post that. It will also help breastfeeding mothers from the strain of going back to work too soon and will help them to build and maintain routines around that. 

Additionally, it will give women more time to heal physically from childbirth and help them lower their chance of developing mental health problems and hence, improving their overall well-being. 

However, there is more to it: Government companies can afford these changes, but private companies with low profits might find this policy change quite challenging. 

But here is the thing:  People in tech have the added advantage of working from home in a hybrid model; however, people with on-field jobs may face a problem- reporting. That is where we would need Government intervention on how this two year paid maternity leave will workout in general. 

The Government, in their policy, should carefully define who these children are with special needs? 

Post childbirth, many kids are born with genetic disorders, but an early intervention can help in improving the overall wellness of children. Remember! Some children are born with Down syndrome, some children have dyslexia, and there are children with various neurological disorders and skin disorders such as Eczema,  Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Speech and Language Disorders, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Intellectual Disabilities, etc.

Thus, The Government, in their policy, will have to carefully define who the children with special needs are. Who are they? 

So, there is an obvious need for government intervention here. The formed committee in their policy draft will have to define this two-year maternity leave, who can avail of it, what the scope of this leave is, who the children with special needs are, and what those genetic diseases are, and determine whether this two years leave is compulsory or not.  Thus, paid two-year maternity leave is definitely essential and needs apparent consideration for many women who need it.

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