New Delhi: The Ministry of Labour is all set to introduce a new provision in the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961, wherein both private and public sector organisations may have to provide crèches to women in campus. The government also plans to increase maternity leave in private sector from the present 12 weeks to 26 weeks. 
 
“We had written to the Labour Ministry asking that the maternity leave be extended taking into account the six months of breastfeeding that is required post childbirth. The Labour Ministry has agreed to increase it to six-and-a-half months,” said Women and Child Development Minister, Maneka Gandhi.
 
The proposal, if approved, it is hoped will help in bringing down the child malnutrition level in the country. As per the reports, India has one of the highest child malnutrition rates in the world, Malnutrition is one of the biggest reasons for child deaths in the country. Most of these deaths are caused by preventable illnesses due to weak immune systems.
 
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), breastfeeding reduces child mortality and has proven health benefits that extend into adulthood. WHO recommends breastfeeding for babies up to six months. However, only 47 percent of working mothers are able to breastfeed for the first six months due to work commitments.
 
The proposal has been hailed by experts who feel the extension of maternity leave will encourage more women to cater to the needs of their newborns and provide working women in all sectors the much-needed protection.