NEW DELHI: The government was looking at a “more sophisticated” legislation to address concerns regarding lack of paternity leave for new fathers, Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi said.
The minister’s comments came after widespread criticism that the Maternity Benefits (Amendment) Bill, which had extended the maternity leave in private sector from 12 weeks to 26 weeks, had failed to address the need for leave for new fathers as well.
Currently, there is no legislation mandating compulsory leave for fathers in private sector. Though men in government service — biological as well as adoptive fathers — can take 15 days of paid leave.
Gandhi said: "I look forward to a time when there will be a joint responsibility by both parents. It is an ideal situation and we are working towards that. The first step in the pursuit of giving care to a new born child is the Maternity Bill and maybe the next step will be more sophisticated".
Maternity Benefit Bill 2016 was passed in the Rajya Sabha earlier this month and is likely to be taken up in the Lok Sabha during the Winter Session.
The bill proposes to extend maternity leave from the current 12 weeks to 26 weeks but has no mention for leave for fathers.
Several MPs had pointed out this lacuna while the bill was taken up for discussion in Rajya Sabha. Independent MP Anu Agha, Congress' Rajni Patil and NCP's Vandana Chavan had sought provisions for paternity leave in the bill.
"The government should also address the hidden biases against working women...the father too is responsible for raising a child," Rajni Patil had demanded.