The Maternity Benefit Act

The Maternity Benefit Act 1961 was enacted to maintain stability in the employment of women working in factories, mines, plantations, shops, and other areas. It provides 12 weeks of paid leave to women employees before or after childbirth. 

The 44th session of the Indian Labour Conference (ILC) put a recommendation to extend the period of maternity leave from 12 weeks to 24 weeks. Later During the 45th and 46th sessions of ILC, The purpose for enhancement of maternity leave was taken into consideration and acknowledged. 

It aims to regulate the employment of women employees in certain establishments for a particular period before or after the baby is born. 

The Maternity Benefit Act originally provided a Maternity Benefit of 12 weeks. In 2017, the law was amended to extend the period to 26 weeks. 

What Is Maternity Leave?

Maternity leave is a period of leave from her work when the woman’s employer is pregnant or in other words, Maternity leaves in India is a paid leave of absence from work that allows women employees to take care of their newly born baby, and gives benefits of retaining their jobs at the same time. Maternity leave is a right of every working woman and no woman should be deprived of it. 

As per The Maternity leave Benefit Act, 1961 women employees get paid leave of 12 weeks after delivery for taking care of a newborn baby. In 2017, The Maternity leave Benefit Act was amended which brought a lot of necessary amendments in the act. 

What Were The Amendments Brought Under This Act?

PAYMENT: Payment is calculated on the basis of the average daily wage for the period of absence.

EXTENSION OF PERIOD: The Maternity Amendment 2017 has extended the period from 12 weeks to 26 weeks. The pregnant woman can divide her leave as post and pre-delivery.

Period of leave for women who are expecting before having 2 Children [Sec 5(3)]: 26 weeks

Pre–Delivery Period: up to a maximum of 8 weeks

Post–Delivery Period: remaining period out of 26 weeks.

Period of leave for women who are expecting after having 2 Children [Sec5(3)]: 12 weeks 

Pre–Delivery Period: up to a maximum of 6 weeks

Post–Delivery Period: remaining period out of 12 weeks.

ADOPTIVE MOTHERS: The period of leave is 12 weeks. The large starts from the day of adoption and is only applicable for the baby below three months of age [Sec5(3)].

COMMISSIONING MOTHERS: Maternity leave is of 12 weeks leave for the biological mother who imparts her egg to create an embryo which is then planted in another woman [Sec5(4)].

TUBECTOMY DURING PREGNANCY: In case of tubectomy, a woman is allowed to take 2 weeks to leave, from the date of tubectomy operation. 

Maternity Benefits And Indian Constitution:

Article 15 – Right to social equality.

Article 15(3) – The main objective of this article is to keep in view the weak physical position of women – “Protective Discrimination”

Article 16 – Right to social equality in employment

Article 21 – Right to life and personal liberty, therefore women employees must get all the facilities and assistance that she requires during pregnancy.

Article 39(d) – Right to equal pay for equal work

Article 39(e) – Right that health and strength of workers should not be abused

Article 41 – Provision for securing the right to work and to education

Article 42 – State shall make provision for securing just and humane condition of work and for maternity relief

Article 46 – Right to improvement in employment opportunities and conditions of the working women

Importance Of Maternity Benefits Act:

The fundamental purpose for providing maternity benefits is to preserve self-respect, to protect the physical and mental health of women, and to complete the safety of the Child. The main objective of the Maternity benefit is to protect the dignity of “Motherhood” and provide complete health care to women and their children. It also benefits to safeguard working women. 

Norms Under The Maternity Leave: 

The employer should ensure the health and safety of her employee. She must not get long working hours or difficult tasks, ten weeks before the delivery. She should not be involved in any work for 6 weeks after the delivery or miscarriage. Employers cannot discharge or dismiss a woman employee during her maternity leave.

Compensation Rules And Benefits Under The Act : 

A medical bonus is entitled in addition to maternity leave if free medical health care is not provided. Mother can further get a benefit of Rs. 6000 under NATIONAL FOOD SECURITY ACT, 2013. An additional paid-up leave of 1 month after 26 weeks of Maternity leave if women show proof of being physically or mentally unfit to join . 2 nursing breaks are allowed in between the working hours until the baby turns 15 months old.

Disadvantages Of The Maternity Benefits Act:

The Maternity Benefit Act is not applicable in establishments with less than 10 employees or in the unorganized sector. The act does not create a provision for paternity leave. The act puts the burden of crèche facilities and maternity leave on employers.

Different Schemes Implemented By The Central Government For Maternity Benefits:

  • Indira Gandhi Matritva Sahyog Yojana (IGMSY)
  • Rajiv Gandhi National Crèche Scheme For Children of Working Mothers 

Conclusion: 

The Maternity Benefit Act is a boon for working women as they don’t have job insecurity during their maternity period. Also, it provides a satisfactory duration of time for taking care of women as well as their child’s health. It also supports women and makes them economically strong. There are some loopholes that need to be filled like clarification is still awaiting for crèche facility, work from home, and accessibility of this act in unorganized sectors.

The article has been written by Kiran Israni, 3rd Year Law Student of Baba Saheb Ambedkar College of Law, Nagpur.

The article has been edited by Shubham Yadav, a 4th-year law student at Banasthali Vidyapith.

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