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Becoming a mother is such a special feeling!
It's considered to be the ultimate blessing for any woman. It’s nature’s magical experience, that stumps everything else in this world. That feeling of giving birth to a kind of its own is splendidly beautiful.
When a woman gets pregnant, she requires a lot of time to rest, far away from stress.
But often the modern day lady thinks she can balance the two acts. But when the time of delivery comes nearer and her body starts taking a toll. This is when it becomes indispensable for her to have maternity leaves.
She is due to take pregnancy leave in India in any firm.
It is her right!
A right that she can exercise under maternity leaves policy in India.
Every working woman, a part of the Government structure or the corporate framework is entitled to maternity leaves in India. These are fully paid leaves provided to working women who’re expecting a child.
The rules of maternity leave in India formulated entitle a working pregnant woman to take leaves and attend to her bodily needs. Under the maternity leave act in India, she needs to take care of herself and the child developing inside her, meanwhile feeling secure of her job and position.
Although, the modern woman believes she can fulfil anything, however, the independent working lady needs some time off for herself. This is where the maternity leave rules in private sector companies apply.
Maternity leave for private sector firms is often overlooked and the people suffer more due to hesitation. Women fear to lose their job but fail to ask the management about how to apply for maternity leave in India in the company.
Recently, the Madras High Court held that a woman has the fundamental right to dignity as a mother, and a maternity leave period is a part of the service period under the maternity policy in India.
To have a better understanding of what is maternity leave in India, one has to go through the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961. In India, maternity leave policy follows a straight jacket formula of 26 weeks of paid leave and childcare leave post that.
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What is the Maternity Leave Policy in India?
Maternity Leaves in India means a period legally allowing an Indian woman to be absent from work. This period is weeks before and after she gives birth. This period is indispensable to take care of the new-born child/children in the early stages of their infancy.
This time period of leave also includes the last few weeks of pregnancy for the women, also known as prenatal leave.
Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 regulates the law of maternity leave in India, which lays down the provisions relating to several benefits that mothers receive in India.
Maternity Benefit Act India states the maternal leave, employment benefits available to women employed in both the private and public sector.
This is a ‘fully paid’ leave available to a pregnant and lactating working woman, to take care of herself and her child.
As the maternity leave law in India was amended by the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act, 2017 which came into effect on April 1, 2017.
It extensively modifies the old Maternity Act in India and is applicable to all mines, plantations, shops, establishments, and factories employing 10 or more employees, whether in the organized or unorganized sector.
As per the Act, for the eligibility for maternity leave, a woman must have been working as an employee in an establishment for a period of at least 80 days in the past 12 months.
Also, the payment during the leave period is based on the average daily wage for the period of actual absence as per the reformed maternity leaves law in India.
Initially, Indian maternity leave was for three months, but after the Amendment, the maternity leaves India was extended.
Now, it's more than 6 months of maternity leave in India for all women working in companies with at least 10 employees. However, a woman who has two or more children is entitled to 12 weeks of pregnancy leaves in India.
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Maternity Benefits under the Maternity Leave Act in India
The key features and implications of the Maternity Benefits Act, 2017 stating the maternity leave rules in India are:
Maternity Leave duration in India: The duration under pregnancy leave act in India is changed to 26 weeks from the earlier 12 weeks. The extended period is applicable to women in case of the first and second child. For women who are expecting a child after having two children, the duration of paid maternity leaves India shall be 12 weeks i.e. 6 weeks pre-delivery and 6 weeks post-delivery.
For adoptive and commissioning mothers: As per the newly amended maternity laws, the Act now extends to adoptive mothers as well. Every woman who has adopted a child will get 12 weeks of adoption leave in India from the date of adoption.
Work from Home: As per the newly implemented Maternity Law in India, there is now the option of ‘work from home’ also available for mothers. After the leave period of 26 weeks has expired, a woman can use this option to do her work. One can even modify this option according to the nature of work, as the employer levies the terms and conditions.
Crèches: As per the amended maternity leave law in India, it is compulsory for every establishment employing 50 or more women to have in-house crèche facilities. Thereby allowing them to visit the facility at least four times during the day.
Awareness: This Act makes it compulsory for employers to aware women about the eligibility of maternity leave, at the time of their appointment.
A working woman has the complete right to ask for light jobs during her pregnancy period. She can avoid the work which requires standing for long hours. Or she can ask to work in a section where hazardous substances are not used.
Along with this, there includes an additional benefit in the maternity leave policy of India for working mothers. As per new maternity leaves rules in India, this includes a non-discriminatory performance appraisal system acknowledging the absence of female employees.
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Maternity Benefits: Indian Labour Law Leave Policy Vs. Abroad
With such a reformation in the maternity leave rules for contractual employees, leave policy in Indian private companies and government, India now surpasses many countries, both in terms of providing maternity benefits and maternity leave laws in India to working mothers.
However, when it comes to paid maternity leave India, this reformation has brought in us ahead of most countries with respect to maternity leaves law. An exception being the United Kingdom, where the country law offers women with 39 weeks as maternity leave.
According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development Report, the countries have the following maternity leaves:
the U.S. has zero maternity leave policy.
while Canada provides a working woman with up to 17 weeks off,
whereas France offers about 16 weeks,
China gives 14 weeks off,
16 weeks are off in Singapore,
Brazil provides 17 weeks off
and Germany offers you 14 weeks similar to Japan under their maternity law.
Although many countries divide the price of maternity leave equally between the government, employer, insurance and other social security programs.
However, as per the new maternity leave policy in India, companies have to bear all the costs.
In view of the highlights mentioned in the amendment in the Act for maternity leave 2018, there are many positives for Indian females and employers. However, there are significant disadvantages as well, causing a blow to Indian women.
Indian employers still need to establish adequate infrastructure, which costs them more expenditure. Therefore giving a sliver of a chance to avail creche services for working mothers.
The employers in India will rather see this as the incremental cost. This includes 26 weeks of maternity leave in India under the pregnancy laws in India. The cost of creating creches and the cost of an employee to fill in during the female employee's absence.
Whereas, in this understanding of many companies in India, the cost of hiring a male candidate would constitute his salary. Also other statutory benefits, unlike women.
There is, however, a possibility that due to these new amendments in the pregnancy law in India. Females could face reductions in upfront salaries; as companies and corporates would compensate for the higher cost. Thereby, employers can increase the contractual employment in order to avoid obligations.
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Legal Actions You Can Take on the Denial of Maternity Leave in India
A good HR policy will always try to implement and ensure that women employees do not have to give up their career requisites in order to fulfil their role as a mother. However, expecting mothers in India are still facing this.
After the amendment of the act for maternity law in 2017, there are some major consequences that an employer can face for denying to provide you with maternity leave.
As per the latest news on maternity leave in India talks about the amendment in the act of maternity leave in India 2018, it’s mandatory for all corporates and other establishments to enforce the new maternity leaves rules as described below:
It suggests being extended from the present three months to six months by an organization. However, an organization can revoke maternity benefits in India only in case a women employee changes her job during that period.
Extending the benefits of this Act to all the women employees, including those who are already on leave. If an employer violates the maternity benefit laws and maternity rules in India then, he/she is liable for punishment. The violation can be done by discharging or dismissing a pregnant employee. Or for being absent due to pregnancy, delivery or post-natal illness.
As per the Labour Law in India as well, the rules for maternity leave in India support a woman employee, where she can file a case in labour court against the employer for her dismissal or discharge on account of such absence.
If the employer denies maternity benefit to a woman employee, the labour court can hold the employer liable to imprisonment for 3 months, fine the employer with an amount up to Rs. 5000, or both, as per the rules for maternity leave in India.
If you face further problems regarding maternity leaves, you can consult with our top legal experts or lawyers now!