LAHORE: The Punjab Maternity Benefits (Amendment) Bill 2019 has been submitted to the Punjab Assembly demanding more benefits and security for women at their workplaces during pregnancies.
The bill was submitted in the assembly by PML-N MPA Hina Pervaiz Butt on Tuesday. It sought amendment to the Punjab Maternity Benefits Ordinance of 1958 to facilitate and encourage the involvement and retention of women in the workforce.
According to the proposed bill: “Every workplace having 50 or more employees will be bound to establish a daycare centre reserved for the use of children up to the age of six. Every woman will be allowed to visit the daycare centre four times a day. Every woman will be allowed to have two breaks in a day for the nursing care of her child until he or she attains the age of 15 months.”
It adds: “Any employer, who violates any provision of the ordinance, will be punished with fine of up to Rs0.5 million. Every woman employed in the organisation will be entitled to maternity leave for a duration of 24 weeks. The maternity leave can be extended depending on the health condition of the mother and child after the delivery. In case of a miscarriage, the woman will be given six-week-long leave with wages at the rate of maternity benefit.”
It further proposes that if an employer denied grant of maternity benefits or leaves entitled under the law, the inspector of factories or an aggrieved woman herself, or through any representative or legal heir or legal practitioner or any official of a registered trade union authorised in writing to act on her behalf, could apply to the authority established under Section 15 of the Payment of Wages Act (Act IV of 1936) for a direction under sub-section (3) of Payment of Wages Act (Act IV of 1936).
“Any employer who contravenes any provision of this law, shall be punished with fine, which may extend to Rs500,000.”
MPA Hina Butt told Dawn that the bill would likely be tabled in the assembly during its next session. She said the constitution encouraged promotion of social justice and eradication of social evils and provision of maternity benefits to women in employment. “The bill, after becoming an Act, will be applicable to all the woman employees whether they are working on contract or permanent basis,” she said.
She further added: “The existing legal regime under the Maternity Benefits Ordinance, 1958 selectively provides maternity benefits to only those women engaged in the manufacturing process, and leaves unprotected those gainfully employed in other sectors. The existing law does not provide an enforcement procedure or claim mechanism for maternity benefits, and instead criminalises violation of the ordinance and subjects it to a minor penalty of Rs3,000. In line with the mandate of the constitution, it is imperative that the Maternity Benefits Ordinance, 1958 be amended to include all women employed.”
*Published in Dawn, April 3rd, 2019*