Maternity Benefit Act: Maternity Leave in India has changed considering the current situation where women are dominant members of any work arrangement. Pregnancy is a phase in life; many families anticipate it to happen to them someday. Many families plan on pregnancy and child-birth, and with childbirth, there is always an associated concern with the joy and excitement that it entails. The Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act, which the Rajya Sabha passed in August 2016, has also been approved by the Lok Sabha in March 2017.
Maternity leave is an act to regulate women’s employment in a specific establishment for a certain period before and after childbirth. A woman employee is entitled to maternity benefits at the rate of her average daily wage for her absence, for a maximum period of 26 weeks as per the Maternity Benefits Act of 1961. HR policies for Maternity Leave differ from company to company. One needs to check with their company’s HR department to find out more about its policy on maternity leave.
Maternity Benefit Act
- The employment of women before and after childbirth is regulated by the Maternity Benefit Act.
- It provides maternity leaves and certain other benefits such as medical termination of pregnancy, miscarriage, etc.
- It applies to factories, mines, the circus industry, plantations and shops and institutions employing at least ten employees, except female employees who are covered under the Employees’ State Insurance Act, 1948 (ESI Act)
- Provides maternity compensations to female employees working in specified companies and prohibits women in the unorganised division
- Female employees working in covered organisations are entitled to maternity benefits if they have worked with the last twelve months prior to the delivery date for at least a period of 80 days
In addition to the Maternity Act, special other labour laws in India also provide for maternity privileges. The ESIC Maternity leave salary procedure includes payment of wages to an insured woman during her 26-week maternity leave. Women serving in publications or journalists are also authorised to maternity leave of 3 months under the Working Journalists (Conditions of Service) and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1955. Similarly, female workers working in factories are allowed three months of maternity leaves with complete wages under the Factories Act, 1948.
ESIC Maternity Leave
ESI stands for Employee State Insurance conducted by the Employee State Insurance Corporation (ESIC), an autonomous body formed by the law under the Ministry of Labour and Employment, Government of India. The ESIC maternity leaves salary procedure presents 100% of average daily wages in cash up to 26 weeks in confinement and six weeks in the cause of miscarriage, during maternity leave and for adopting and commissioning mothers, a period of 12 weeks.
Wages and Employee Rights
The Maternity Benefit Act states that a woman will be paid from her average daily wage in the three months preceding her maternity leave during her pregnancy. However, the woman must work for the company for at least 80 days in the 12 months before her expected delivery date. The Maternity Benefit Act initially provided a maternity benefit of 12 weeks, out of which six weeks can be claimed before delivery.
In 2017, the law changed, and from 12 weeks, it was extended to 26 weeks, out of which eight weeks could be claimed before delivery. If the woman has more than two children, maternity leave is provided for 12 weeks only. Women undergoing a tubectomy surgery also get a paid leave of two weeks following the surgery. In case of medical termination of pregnancy or miscarriage, the law allows women six weeks’ leave after the procedure.
The law also authorises companies to allow women workers to work from home if the type of work allows that. This Maternity Benefit Law was further changed in 2017 to make it compulsory for corporations with more than 50 workers to build creches. The Mothers are permitted to visit the creches up to four times a day and get two nursing breaks per day and several other gaps that are available as a matter of course until the child attains the age of 15 months. No one can terminate a woman for maternity leave and cannot serve a termination notice on maternity leave, which expires before the maternity leave ends. Also, an employer cannot change the service terms to the woman’s disadvantage during her maternity leave.
How to Claim Maternity Act Benefits?
According to the Maternity Benefits Act of 1961, a female employee must give her employer notice in writing claiming maternity leave and benefit. One should contact their HR to apply for medical leave. Any woman who had not given the notice when she was expecting may provide the information soon after the pregnancy. They need to specify that they will not be serving the company during the time they receive the benefit.
If the mother takes six weeks of leave before the delivery, the law authorises them to get the corresponding salaries before the delivery if they provide proof of being pregnant. Under the ESIC maternity leave salary procedure, payments corresponding to the six weeks of maternity leave after the confinement should be proffered once they give evidence of having delivered.
If the employee becomes sick or ill due to any sickness arising out of pregnancy, she is allowed an additional 30 days leave with payment under the Maternity Benefit Act. One requires to submit proof of illness, and the company has to agree to it. Leave Without Pay (LWP) shall only be permitted for use if the employees have no SL or EL, but it again depends on the employer’s HR policy and relationship with the manager.
Maternity Leave Compared with Global Standard
Women employees now have a cause to celebrate as organised sector women will now get six months of paid maternity leave, as the Lok Sabha amended the law on maternity benefits. This move gives women more than double the current leave. The law will apply to all establishments employing ten or more people. India is undoubtedly making progress when it comes to women’s rights. In fact, it has knocked many advanced nations with this move. According to PRS Legislative Research data, the USA gives 12 weeks of maternity leave, which is unpaid leave.
The UK and Australia offer one of the longest paid maternity benefits globally, which stands at 52 weeks. Some countries like South Africa, UK, Brazil, France, Singapore and Australia also allow paternity leave. The cause of funding for these paid maternity leave varies from country to country. For instance, in India, the money comes from the employer. In Australia and Canada, it’s public funding. At the same time, other countries either use insurance or a combined employer, employee and government contribution. According to Sweden’s official website, parents are entitled to 480 days of paid parental leave when a child is born or adopted.
Conclusion on Maternity Benefit Act
India has already transitioned to a nuclear family approach; it is challenging to have help from home. Moreover, couples have migrated from their hometowns to different places in search of work. A lot of opinions and predicaments have led to several women employees losing out on their rightful share. Some women employees even resign as severe health issues do not allow them to continue working during the pregnancy period. The government supports maternity leave strongly. A woman can avail all the significant advantages and have a well-informed resolution on her pregnancy and maternity leave. This Maternity Leave change is set to help ensure pregnant women their jobs and have a serene time with family in the happiest phase of their life.