Creche clause in Maternity Act depends on execution

The newly drafted Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act, 2017, provisioning for creches is a masterstroke, benefitting kids, mothers, and, yes, fathers too. With effect from July 1, employers having 50 or more employees will be required to provide creche facility, either individual or shared, within the distance as may be prescribed by applicable rules. Women employees would also be permitted to visit the creche four times during the day. If implemented in the right spirit, the amended provisions shall not only prevent new mothers from dropping out of workforce post delivery, but will also curb disturbing issues such as child abuse to a large extent.

Till now, it was only the Factories Act, 1948, and the Building and other Construction Workers’ (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1996, which required respective organisations to have creche facilities.  According to the said statute, suitable rooms for use by the employees’ children are to be provided and maintained by their employers. Such rooms are required to have adequate accommodation, light, ventilation, clean and sanitary conditions, and be under the charge of trained women.
Though stipulation of creches under the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act is commendable, issue often crops up when it comes to its enforcement. For instance, Maternity Benefit Act, 1961, states that every woman returning to work post delivery should be allowed two breaks in the course of her day to nurse her newborn until s/he turns 15 months old. However, these breaks mostly remain unexecuted due to practical issues. Promulgating legislations is important, but that cannot be an end in itself. Poor compliance with labour law jeopardises both the employer’s working as well as the employee’s well being. Indian labour laws are so numerous, complex and even ambiguous that they promote litigation and Inspector Raj instead of resolving problems related to industrial relations.