Benefits of the Maternity Benefits Act, 1961

Pregnancy and childbirth are singular experiences for a couple. However, the burden of pregnancy often deters female employees from continuing with their professional life.

The Maternity Benefits Act enacted by the Government of India in 1961 aims to protect working women’s employment rights when they conceive up until childbirth.

The Act lays out legislation that mandates establishments and shops to extend maternity benefits to women employees.

The scope of the law covers the organizations having a workforce of ten or more people.

The Employees’ State Insurance Act, 1948, secures female employees working in factories with a workforce or ten or more.

Organizations must lay out all the provisions and benefits women are entitled to under the legislation.

Often employees may be unaware of their rights. The employer should undertake the duty of informing female employees during the proceedings of recruitment.

The Maternity Benefit Act, 1961, upholds the employer’s rights of female employees and defines the duration and amount of coverage, insurance, and undertakings if unusual circumstances arise.

Salient features of the law are –

  • Women are entitled to the benefits covering their average daily wage for three months preceding the expected delivery date.
    However, to be eligible for payment, the expectant employee must have worked 80 days of the 12 months before the due date.
  • The Act ensures that the employee must compensate for the wages for 12 weeks, and before the delivery, they must claim six weeks of the total duration.
    An amendment passed in 2017 to extend the period to 26 weeks, of which the employee must claim eight weeks before delivery.
    The Act enlists provisions where the employee also has the option to opt for full 26 weeks paid leave only after birth.
  • The paid leave available is 12 weeks for female employees already having two surviving children.
    The period of leave must not exceed six weeks following the delivery date. Amendments in the law also ensure adopting mothers receive a 12 week paid maternity leave starting from the day they receive their child.
  • The Maternity Benefit Act also extends a 12-week coverage for medical procedures such as tubectomy.
    In the event of a miscarriage or premature termination of pregnancy, paid leave is extended for an additional month to the concerned employee.
  • The legislation legally abounds employees to extend maternity benefits to all eligible female employees, and they cannot terminate the contract during the period. Establishments also cannot modify the terms of services while the employee is under maternity leave.
  • The amendment in 2017 also mandated establishment to employ workers in crèches. The mother is permitted to visit the crèche four times a day, two nursing breaks, and any other available breaks.

    The facility should be available for the employee’s child until they are 15.

  • Also, provisions in the law allow women to work from home beyond the agreed period of maternity leave if the nature of services allows it.

The Maternity Benefits Act has come under criticism often, as it does not pertain to female employee’s rights in the unorganized sector.

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