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MATERNITY BENEFIT ACT, 1961

The Maternity Benefit Act is one of the best legislations passed by the government to protect the employment of women during the phase of motherhood. The primary motive is to help her to take care of her child, protecting her health alongside, and preserve the self-respect for working mothers. This Article will give you a brief on the applicability of the Act on establishments, its purpose, the monetary and non-monetary benefits a woman employee can avail during her maternity and the procedure for availing the same.
PURPOSE – The Act was introduced to regulate the working conditions of women in establishments during the period before and after child-birth and for providing maternity and other benefits.
APPLICABILITY–The Act is applicable to - Factory, mine or plantation including Government establishments or establishment requiring physical labour/skills/performances, all shops or establishments which employ 10 or more persons. The Act is not applicable to an employee in any factory or other establishments, who is covered under the provisions of the Employee’s State Insurance Act, 1948 and is availing the maternity benefits under the ESI Act. For the reason that, an employee availing the maternity benefits provided by the ESI Act, is not entitled to receive any similar benefits under any other enactment.
    BENEFITS PROVIDED BY THE ACT:
    Monetary Benefits
  1. Paid Maternity Leave -Every woman employee can avail the maternity leave of 26 weeks, after giving due notice to the employer and avail the benefit.
  2. Advance Payment -Such employee can avail the payment of maternity wages in advance, after producing the due proof of such pregnancy and delivery to the employer.
  3. Medical Bonus -She can also avail pre-natal and post-natal care or be paid the medical bonus from the employer
  4. Additional leave for illness -She can, in addition, also avail leave with maternity benefit for a maximum period of 1 month, if she is suffering from illness arising out of pregnancy, delivery, premature birth of child, or miscarriage, and upon production of proof of the same
  5. Paid Leave for Miscarriage -In the event of miscarriage, a woman employee can avail leave with wages for a period of 6 weeks from the day of the miscarriage, upon production of such proof
  6. Paid leave for tubectomy operation -In the event of a tubectomy operation, a woman employee can avail leave with wages at the rate of maternity benefit for 2 weeks following the operation
    Available Legal Remedies in case of denial of maternity benefit
  1. If such benefit is denied or she is dismissed by the employer, she can appeal against the action to the prescribed authority within 60 days from the date of such action.
  2. Further, she can also approach the Court of law as per Section 23 of the Act, within 1 year of the commission of the offence. But the employer can dismiss the employee under the grounds of gross misconduct.
    Other benefits:
  1. Request for less straining work - A woman employee can request her employer not to give her work which is of arduous nature, involving long standing hours, is likely to interfere with the pregnancy, likely to cause miscarriage or likely to adversely affect her health.
  2. Restriction on Employment - An employer cannot employ a woman during the 6 weeks immediately after her delivery/miscarriage.
  3. Work from Home options -When a woman returns to work after maternity, if the nature of work assigned to a woman is such that she may work from home, then the employer can allow her to work so, upon such conditions and for such period which is mutually agreed by the employer and employee.
  4. Nursing Breaks -She can have 2 nursing breaks in addition to the normal interval, until the child attains the age of 15 months.
  5. Creches -The facility of creches is provided in the establishment for the caretaking of the child.
Monetary Benefits:
Section Benefit Description
15 Payment of Maternity Benefit Every woman employee is entitled to the payment of maternity benefit at the rate of the average daily wage for the period of her absence.
Eligibility:But the woman must have worked for a period not less than 80 days out of 12 months immediately before the date of her expected delivery.
Maximum period of Maternity Benefit - The maximum period for which maternity benefit shall be 26 weeks. Out of the same, she shall not avail more than 8 weeks before the date of her expected delivery.
Exception: A woman having 2 or more children can avail maternity benefit only for a maximum period of 12 weeks.
5 (4) Maternity Benefit to Adopting & Commissioning mothers An adopting or commissioning mother shall be entitled to maternity benefit for a period of 12 weeks from the date the child is handed over to the adopting or commissioning mother.
6 (5) Advance Payment of Maternity Benefit Period before the delivery – Upon giving proof of the pregnancy, the employer shall pay in advance the maternity benefit amount for the period before the delivery.
Period after the delivery – Upon giving proof of the delivery of child, the employer shall pay in advance the maternity benefit amount for the subsequent period within 48 hours of production.
8 Payment of Medical Bonus If the employer doesn’t provide any pre-natal confinement or post-natal care free of charge, during the period, then the woman employee is entitled to receive the prescribed amount of medical bonus.
9 Benefit provided in the event of Miscarriage On producing proof of the miscarriage, a woman employee is entitled to leave with wages for a period of 6 weeks from the day of her miscarriage.
9A Leave for Tubectomy Operation – A woman employee shall be entitled to leave with wages at the rate of maternity benefit for 2 weeks following the tubectomy operation.
10 Additional maternity leave & benefit A woman employee suffering from illness arising out of pregnancy, delivery, premature birth of child, or miscarriage, on production of proof of the same, shall be entitled to leave with maternity benefit for a maximum period of 1 month, in addition to the period prescribed under Section 6.
Non- Monetary Benefits:
Section Benefit Description
4 Restriction of employment The employer shall not employ a woman during the 6 weeks immediately following the delivery/miscarriage.
4 (3) Request for work A pregnant woman during the period of 10 weeks immediately before her date of expected delivery can request her employer to refrain from giving her any work, which (i) is of arduous nature (ii) involves long hours of standing (iii) in any way is likely to interfere with her pregnancy/normal development of the foetus (iv) is likely to cause her miscarriage (v) is likely to adversely affect her health
5(5) Work from Home Options After availing the maternity benefit, when the nature of work assigned to a woman is such that she may work from home, the employer may allow her to work so, for such period, and on such conditions mutually agreed by the woman and the employer.
11 Nursing breaks For a woman who returns to duty after the delivery, she shall be given in addition to the interval allowed, 2 breaks of prescribed duration for nursing the child, until the child attains the age of 15 months.
11 A Creches Every establishment having 50 or more employees shall provide the facility of creches. The employer shall allow 4 visits a day to the crèche, which shall be included in the interval for her rest.
12 Dismissal of employment during absence of pregnancy It is unlawful for an employer to dismiss or change the service terms of an employee for her absence during the maternity period, or deprive her of maternity benefit or medical bonus, or both for which notice is given by the woman employee.
Relief against Dismissal – Within 60 days from the date of such order, she can appeal against the dismissal to the prescribed authority. Further, she can also approach the Court of law as per Section 23 of the Act, within 1 year of the commission of the offence. Exception: Dismissal on grounds of Gross misconduct
Duties of a woman employee
Section Benefit Description
6 Notice of Claim for Maternity Benefit A womanshould give notice in writing to her employer, stating the maternity benefit and other amounts to which she is entitled, to be paid to her or her nominee. She should undertake that she would not work in any other establishment during the period for which she receives the maternity benefit. Notice shall state the date from which she will be absent from work,which shall not be earlier than 8 weeks of the date of her expected delivery. If not, a woman shall give the notice as soon as possible after the delivery.
4 (2) Woman shall not work during the 6 weeks immediately after her delivery A woman employee shall not work in any establishment during the 6 weeks immediately following the date of the delivery.
Conclusion – Motherhood was, is and will always be one of the challenging jobs in the world. Motherhood is an inherent and integral part of a woman’s dignity, which is protected by Article 21 of the Constitution. The present Act and its amendments are positive moves made by the Government to ensure equal opportunities to women at workplace.