The Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 (“Maternity Benefit Act” or “Act”), is a legislation which provides for dignity of a woman employee during a very important transition into motherhood in her life, and also provides monetary help prior to and after delivery of a child, by allowing complete leave from work with pay.
The Maternity Benefit Act is applicable to every company, firm or any other establishment in which 10 or more employees are employed, or were employed, on any day of the preceding 12 months (“Employer”).
The woman employee will be eligible for benefits under the Act if she had worked with the Company for at least 80 days in 12 months preceding the date of her expected delivery.
The following benefits are available to a women employee under the Act:
- The Employer is not allowed to employ a woman employee for a period of6 weeks before the expected delivery of a child.
- The Employer is not allowed to make a woman employee undertake arduous tasks for work requiring long hours of standing for1 month before the day of commencement of 6 weeks period or during the 6 weeks period stated in point 1 above if the employee chooses not to avail leave.
- The Employer is also not allowed to employ a woman employee in the company 6 weeks after the delivery of a child.
- The Employer would need to provide additional1 month leave, in addition to leave specified in points 1 and 3, if woman employee suffers from post-delivery illness, premature birth of a child or miscarriageupon a medical professional issuing a certificate to this effect.
- The Employer would need to make full payment of remuneration payable to the woman employee before her maternity leave commences. Remuneration for this purpose means basic salary, dearness allowance, house rent allowance and incentive payments, but does not include bonus, overtime earnings, contributions by employer to provident fund or pension fund, any gratuity payable upon termination of services of such employee.
A woman employee who returns to employment after delivering a child would need to be allowed 2 nursing breaks every day by the employer until the child attains the age of 15 months.
The Maternity Act also provides for leave with pay for a period of 6 weeks immediately after the date of miscarriage.
If a woman employee dies before payment of maternity benefit, then the Employer would need to pay such benefit or the amount to the person nominated by her. If woman employee has not nominated any person, then the benefit or the amount under the Act would need to be paid to her legal representative.
If a woman employee undergoes tubectomy operation, the Employer would need to allow her 2 weeks leave immediately after the date on which tubectomy operation is undergone.
Any dismissal of the employment of woman employee, or change of conditions of employment unfavourably by the Employer while woman employee absents herself from the employment in accordance with the provisions of Maternity Act would be violation of the provisions of the Maternity Act.
Forfeiture of Maternity Benefit
A woman employee would forfeit all benefits provided under this Act, if woman employee works in any other establishment during her availing of leave under this Act.
Any Employer who deprives of benefits under this Act to a woman employee or discharges or dismisses the woman employee from the employment while woman employee avails leave under this Act, or violates any other provisions of the Act, such Employer, if the Employer is a company, then the Managing Director of such company, would be punishable with imprisonment for a term which is not less than 3 months, but extend to 1 year and with a fine of not less than Rs.2,000/-, up to Rs.5,000/- or both.
The author is a member of Karnataka Bar Council and the Institute of Company Secretaries of India. The views are personal.