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India: Maternity leave rule could worsen pregnancy discrimination

In a landmark bill passed on March 9 in the Lok Sabha, lower house of the Indian Parliament, maternity leave for women in the organized sector has been increased from 12 weeks to 26...Although even before the bill was passed companies such as Airtel had already introduced 22-week leave, Flipkart 24 weeks with work-from-home and flex-time facilities, and Microsoft India the same, looking at the bigger picture some critics expressed fears that longer maternity leave could mean more pregnancy discrimination against women...Pregnancy discrimination is an issue faced by women the world over, but in India it is probably more rampant and with much less legal effort to stop it than in other progressive countries...Congress member of Parliament Sushmita Dev rightly said that once amendments raised the period of maternity leave to 26 weeks from 12, it could act as a deterrent for the private sector to employ women...Since the employer has to pay the salary during the leave period, the amendment might turn out to be counterproductive...Dev said. In India the number of women at entry-level positions constitutes about 25% of the workforce. At mid-level positions the number drops to 16%. At the senior management level the number goes down further, to 4%.


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