PAID LEAVES FOR MISCARRIAGE TO WOMEN IN INDIA – MYTH OF REALITY

Modern modifications seek their places in legal texts in a society where conventional laws and practises are changing. The same conditions apply to women when it comes to obtaining employment or, more particularly, ‘work to earn money.’ Women were not considered as earning entities in ancient times since they were expected to manage the home and children, and therefore no regulations were in place to accommodate requirements for women in the workplace. However, when attitudes shifted and women began to hold significant positions in the workforce, legal changes and actions gained acceptance and were implemented. 

The experience of miscarriage in a woman’s life is one of the most common reasons for seeking protection and concern. Many governments have addressed this issue and have implemented new changes as a result. Recently, New Zealand approved a bill on three days of paid leave for miscarriage and stillbirth. In a nation like India, the process of miscarriage is associated with shame and stigma. People frequently regard it as a curse, ignoring the sorrow that it brings to the holder. This isolates women at a time when they need support and inspiration the most, when they are dealing with trauma. The attempt to introduce paid leave for women is an ability to recognise and justify the need for woke legislation for women when they experience miscarriage. This is an attempt to eliminate the stigma that exists in the minds of many people and to encourage women’s involvement in the workforce.

Women sometimes overlook the time needed to recover from the sadness of miscarriages, fearing that it would jeopardise their job stability and perhaps lead to the termination of their professional careers. While miscarrying, one’s mental as well as physical health is drastically impacted. In such traumatic circumstances, the psychological pressure of employment uncertainty is an added difficulty for women. A study upon miscarriages highlighted that India has the highest rate of stillbirths, it also noted that India has the highest chances of miscarriage in women during their first pregnancies as compared to other countries. This demonstrates that miscarriages are a widespread and serious health problem that is eased in part by paid absence from work to alleviate the stress of financial necessity and job stability.

India is one of the few countries that provides paid leave in the event of a miscarriage. However, because it is only available to women, the sample space of persons for its use is extremely limited. Moreover, the implementation has limits owing to societal patriarchal pressure or ignorance. In India, the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 regulates laws regarding maternity leave and workplace safety for women. Miscarriage is defined in Section 3(j) as the expulsion of contents from the uterus before or during the 26th week of pregnancy. According to Section 9 of the Act, women are entitled to six weeks of paid leave immediately on the day of their miscarriage. Moreover as per Section 10, women suffering through illness arising out of miscarriage are also entitled to paid leave up to one month on submitting required medical proofs. Although India has a legislation allowing for paid leave in the event of a miscarriage. It still has a long way to go before it is fully implemented, particularly in the country’s unorganised sector. The legal obligations for women employees are ignored by companies and business enterprises. In terms of removing legal barriers, India is decades ahead from the rest of the world. However, employers’ unsupportive behaviour in the face of an unnatural occurrence such as miscarriage and the anguish it causes leaves women workers with little choice but to suffer it. As a result, either women should refrain from making such demands, or companies should avoid female recruiting since it is costly. The Maternity Benefits Act, although addressing maternity and miscarriage leave for the benefit of female employees, has a detrimental influence on female involvement in important jobs inside firms. Employers opt not to recruit women at all or hire them with circumstances that render the Act’s goals null and void. This maintains the risk of developing workplace gender discrimination. This identifies the law’s flaws in identifying the cost-bearers, which renders the legislation ineffective. There have been suggestions in the past about the active involvement of the state to assure paid leaves for the women during the need. Many nations have caught up to India in recognising legal barriers and enacting legislation to safeguard women in the workplace. The need for successful execution and public awareness of the issue remains.

While New Zealand becomes the 2nd Country to pass miscarriage bereavement leave law, India has had the provision for the past 60 years, allowing it to excel in removing legal barriers as quickly as possible. Miscarriage paid leave is available in the Philippines for up to 60 days at any point throughout the pregnancy, including abortions and emergency wilful terminations. Other countries such as Indonesia and Mauritius have paid leaves for miscarriages and stillbirths for about 6 weeks. People in the United States are not entitled to paid leave for miscarriages and stillbirths. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) governs unpaid leaves for miscarriage. This offers some protection against workplace discrimination for women, but it does not cover other genders since unpaid absences are costly, and the qualifying requirements disqualify many of the applicants. Sweden does not currently provide paid leave for miscarriage, but its provisions for pregnancy and other pregnancy problems are highly effective and remarkable. Both the mother and the father are entitled to paid parental leave in Sweden. As a result, Sweden performs better in the Gender Gap Index than many other high-income nations when it comes to gender equality for men and women.

Paid leave during a miscarriage is addressed in order to account for women’s struggles at work. While India has laws addressing the issue, they have not been properly implemented to justify the legislative requirements. The United States is determined to be a country that lags behind in this regard, as it does not provide paid maternity leave to women during their pregnancies, making it the only high-income country without such laws, despite the fact that even paternal leave is provided in more than 120 countries across the world. Sweden’s approach, which offers paid maternity as well as paternity leave, is a model that sets an example for other nations by bridging the gender gap. Parental leave is a fantastic idea to look forward to since it finds a compromise between the employer’s interests and the employee’s needs. Hence, there is still a long way to go for India as it seeks proper implementation and awareness among people for their rights.

Author(s) Name: Shrishti Jeswani (Student, KIIT University, Bhubaneswar)

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