Maternity benefit Act 1961 with recent amendments
Written By: Sreshta Satpathy
The Maternity Benefit Act of 1961 is a piece of legislation that protects women’s employment throughout their pregnancy. It enables female employees to a ‘maternity benefit,’ which entitles them to full pay throughout their time off from work to care for their children. Establishments with ten or more employees are subject to the Act. The Plantations Labour Act, 1951, defines industries, mines, and plantations as covered by the Act. The Act also covers government-owned and operated establishments, as well as any establishment where people are employed to perform equestrian, acrobatic, or other acts. Every shop or establishment is also covered by the law. As per the Act, to be entitled to maternity benefit, 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. The time of maternity leave which a lady worker is qualified for has been expanded from 12 weeks to 26 (twenty).
The Maternity Benefit Act of 1961 was revised by the Maternity (Amendment) Bill 2017, which was approved by the Lok Sabha on March 9, 2017. Following that, on August 11, 2016, the abovementioned Bill was passed by the Rajya Sabha. It also gained the President of India’s assent on March 27, 2017.
Features of the act
- The Act covers all women who are employed, whether directly or indirectly (e.g., by a contractor or an agent), and whether they are employed on a full-time or contract basis.
- After the 26-week period, women may or may not choose to work from home (in private organisations), depending on the employer’s consent and the nature of the work.
- Employers who fire a pregnant woman are breaking the law, according to Section 12 of the Act. In the event of serious wrongdoing by an employee, he or she may be subjected to disciplinary action in accordance with the company’s norms and procedures.
- The Act requires employers to provide employees with written notice of the maternity benefit regulations and laws at the time of their appointment.
- Women who adopt a child under the age of three months are entitled to a 12-week maternity leave, which begins on the day the infant is given over to the woman.
The objective of the Act
The most fundamental goal of maternity benefit laws is to maintain the dignity of motherhood and mothers, as well as to protect the health of the mother and her child. Motherhood is the most wonderful period in a woman’s life, and she has the right to enjoy it and provide good care for her kid without worrying about her job stability. Furthermore, the proportion of working women in the urban sector has risen dramatically, necessitating the creation of a gender-friendly labor market that provides a favorable and encouraging environment. Given a large number of female employees, it was only natural to protect the women on their maternity leave.
An important highlight in the amended act
Duration-The amount of maternity leave that a woman worker is entitled to have been increased from 12 to 26 (twenty) weeks. Previously, the Act allowed pregnant women to receive Maternity Benefit for only six months and a half before the estimated delivery date and six months and a half after the delivery date. This time frame has now been extended to eight months. The previous 26-week maternity benefit can be extended for all women who are currently on maternity leave at the time of application of this amendment to the Act. The enhanced Maternity Benefit can be used for the first two children. The amount of maternity leave that a woman worker is entitled to have been increased from 12 to 26 (twenty) weeks. Previously, the Act allowed pregnant women to receive Maternity Benefit for only six months and a half before the estimated delivery date and six months and a half after the delivery date. This time frame has now been extended to eight months. The 26-week maternity benefit can be extended for women who are currently on maternity leave at the time of application of this amendment to the Act.
Prior Intimation-Every foundation will be compelled to supply the lady information about each advantage accessible under the Act at the time of her initial arrangement. The “telecommute” option has been offered by the Act and can be used once the 26-week leave term has expired. In light of the concept of employment, a woman can take advantage of this arrangement on terms that are generally agreed upon by the firm. The increase of maternity benefits from 12 to 26 weeks is in line with the World Health Organization’s recommendation that children be nursed exclusively by their mothers for the first 24 weeks.
The option of working from home-If work is assigned to a woman with the objective of allowing her to telecommute, the company may allow her to do so after she receives Maternity Benefit. The parameters for telecommuting may have been agreed upon by both the company and the lady.
Introduction to creche facility- According to Section 11A of the Maternity Benefit Act, any business with fifty or more employees must build a Crèche facility at a specified distance as determined by notification. The creche must be set up either individually or in conjunction with other facilities. The employer must enable women at least four visits to the crèche every day, in addition to the rest period she is entitled to. Every establishment is expected to inform every woman, in writing and electronically, about every benefit available under the Maternity Benefit Act at the time of her initial appointment. The usage of a creche facility is intended to be extended to all employees, including temporary, daily wage, consultant, and contractual professionals, with children aged 6 months to 6 years. Within 500 meters of the workplace or the beneficiaries’ neighborhood, the center should be located. The creche should be open for at least 8 to 10 hours. Workers in this situation can work in a shift system. If the business has day and night shifts, the crèche should be conducted in shifts as well.
The Indian government, in collaboration with the Indian judiciary, has always fought to advance women’s rights. After a thorough examination of the Maternity Benefit Act and judicial sensitivity to this concept, it is obvious that the Act is a benefit for women. The Act has increased women’s dependency on their employers as well as the government. The act has established a social and economic barrier for female employees, as well as a stable atmosphere in which they can do their best for the company. The Amendment Act went into force on April 1, 2017. All establishments covered by the Amendment Act were obliged to amend their existing maternity benefit plans beginning April 1, 2017, to bring them into compliance with the Amendment Act. Everyone applauds the reforms made possible by the Amendment Act. However, there are a few points in the Amendment Act that need to be clarified. It’s unclear whether the additional maternity benefits would be extended to women who are presently on maternity leave. Furthermore, the justification for having a separate effective date for implementing the “work from home” option is unclear, because works from home is an enabling provision that was put in place to encourage employers to provide such a choice to women based on the nature of the work she does, not a statutory requirement under the MB Amendment Act. Creche facilities, for example, necessitate more construction and operating expenditures on the part of the employer. The entire cost of granting leave to employees will be borne by the employers. In most countries, the government, employer, insurance agency, and other social security agencies all contribute to the expense of maternity leave.
Student at Adv. Balasaheb Apte college of Law , Mumbai
I am 20 years old and I belong to Orissa. I’m currently a third-year student pursuing BLS LL.B from Mumbai University. I intend to pursue corporate law in the future.
- MATERNITY BENEFIT ACT, 1961 available at https://labour.gov.in/sites/default/files/TheMaternityBenefitAct1961.pdf
- Maternity Benefit Act 1961-A study on history, scope and amendments in India https://www.researchgate.net/publication/324910243_Maternity_Benefit_Act_1961-A_study_on_history_scope_and_amendments_in_India
- Amendment act http://www.world-psi.org/sites/default/files/attachment/news/maternity_benefit_amendment_act2017__0.pdf
- Indian maternity Benefit amendment act 2017 https://www.pillsburylaw.com/en/news-and-insights/indian-maternity-benefit-amendment-act-2017.html