Scroll Top


Often, we have encountered this sign while passing by an ongoing construction or even the door of a teenage boy. It fascinates me that there existed a time when only the men worked.


Warning: Men At Work.

Often, we have encountered this sign while passing by an ongoing construction or even the door of a teenage boy. It fascinates me that there existed a time when only the men worked. The breadwinners, they called them. The women were limited to duties such as childbearing, catering to the household, and other socially constructed feminine activities owing to their assumed intellectual and physiological incompetence. Fortunately, we have come a long way and have been able to witness women’s participation expand in all fields of life. Education, of course, has been an important asset in aiding the same. It was during the 1990s that a steady and continuous rise in women’s participation in the labor force was seen, all over the world, except in Africa. This growth, however, only depicted a “before v/s after” situation, which only considered women. Many more women needed to possess the status of being employed to come at par with the percentages reflected by men’s labor force participation. In simpler words, the number of men in the labor force was and is far greater than that of women.  Interestingly, in India, women’s labor force participation had also seen a fall from 36.7% in 2005 to 26% in 2018[1]. Why is this happening? Apart from population, what factors contribute to the lower number of women in the labor force than men? Why has the percentage of women employed seen a decline? Have certain stigmas not been discarded? Has the law played any role in securing women’s positions in the workforce?  This blog aims to provide a detailed analysis of the various reasons that contribute to a low employment level among women, specifically focusing on some pro-women legislations that have led to undesirable results concerning the employment level.


This act introduced by the Ministry of Labour and Employment, came into force on April 01, 2017, with some of its provisions coming into force from July 01, 2017.[2] It lists the various maternity benefits (to be provided by the employer) that women in the commercial and public sectors are entitled to receive. As the name suggests, it brought about changes in the already existing Maternity Benefit Act, of 1961[3]. Some key changes are listed below:

As opposed to the original act, the maternity leave for women was extended to 26 weeks provided that she has worked for her employer for at least 80 days in the 12 months preceding the expected date of the delivery[4].

Institutions or organizations with more than 50 employees are obligated to provide creche facilities to take care of newborn children. Mothers are allowed 4 visits per day to these creche facilities (rest included)[5].

A ‘work from home’ provision has been provided to women exercisable after the end of their leave which is subject to terms and conditions levied by the employer.

While all of these amendments aimed for a better work environment ensuring adequate physical and psychological rest, pre and post-delivery for working women who are new mothers, the consequences were different than expected. 2018-19 recorded a high number of jobs that women in India lost owing to discrimination. Why did this happen? To begin with, the burden of bearing the cost during these paid maternity leaves is to be borne solely by the employer. Deeply ingrained patriarchy combined with huge economic expenses to be catered to by the employer has led to a decline in employers wanting to hire women in the first place. Although laws exist that punish employers for laying off employees during their maternity leaves, many women have shared experiences that point towards a huge gap between theory and application of the same.


The menstrual leave policy is another initiative aimed at providing rest and comfort to women during an inevitable process of female physiology i.e. menstruation. In India, the debate revolving around the provision of a paid menstrual leave every month can be traced to the time when a Mumbai-based media startup namely, Culture Machine introduced and implemented a policy that would grant women working in the company, a day off every month as a menstrual leave[6]. Another media company, Gozoop followed suit[7]. While many countries across the globe such as Spain, Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea have concrete laws regarding the menstrual leave policy, India is still debating whether it is essential. The countries having codified regulations for the same differ on various aspects such as the number of leaves granted per month (ranging from 1-3 days), when the policy was adopted (Japan adopted it in 1947 while some did in recent years), and more. The debate was reignited following India’s Union Women and Child Development Minister, Smriti Irani’s comment, “Menstruation is not a handicap” and hence should not be used as a warrant to obtain paid leaves. She justified this by claiming that any action of this sort would certainly bring about discrimination in hiring and employment.


Everything compiled above clearly points towards how interconnected everything is. Issues with the legislation elucidate the social problems that are prevalent in the society and how the economy of that country is also affected.  Is there a uniformity in the experiences of women when it comes to pregnancy and menstruation? If not, are they responsible for their naturally acquired physique and physiology? Why is childcare a duty limited to women? Are the employers right in prioritizing profits over empowerment?  Many women have to resort to painkillers during menstruation. Postpartum depression affects 1 in 7 women. Are the legislations mentioned above necessary? For some, they are. However, in my opinion, numerous societal, psychological, legal, and welfare-oriented changes are essential to achieve the aims these legislations wish to come forward with. In my opinion, shared childcare responsibilities between the mother and the father should be given supreme attention. Iceland provides for 9 months of paid maternity leave, of which 3 months each are granted to the mother and the father, and either can utilize the remaining three months. Further, the government should play a role in aiding the proper implementation of such facilities. For example, the government can and should volunteer to share the burden of the cost borne by the employers during such leaves. It would be wise to learn from countries with such laws to find solutions to the possible problems that come with them. After all, the law needs to be backed by encouragement, assistance, and acceptance.

Author(s) Name: Name: Suhaani Bajpai (ILS Law College)


[1] ‘Female labor force participation falls to 26% in 2018 from 36.7% in 2005: Report’ (Indian Express, 8 March 2019) <> accessed 3 May 2024

[2] Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act 2017

[3] Maternity Benefits Act 1961

[4] Mayashree Acharya ‘Maternity Benefit Act: Maternity Leave Applicability, Rules, Eligibility, Benefits’ (Cleartax, 1 September 2023) <> accessed 4 May 2024

[5] Ibid

[6] Preeti Choudhry ‘The Big Bloody Debate: Is menstruation leave a necessity or an insult to women in the workforce?’ (INDIA TODAY, 13 July 2017) <> accessed 6 May 2024

[7] Ibid