Maternity Benefits Act, 1961
The Maternity Benefits Act, 1961 aims at regulating employment of women employees all over the country. The act provides 12 weeks as the maximum period for which any working woman shall be entitled to maternity benefit. She can avail this benefit as 6 weeks up to and including the day of her delivery and 6 weeks immediately following the day of her delivery. (Section 4)
Applicability of the Act
The Act applies to:
• Every factory, mine or plantation (including those belonging to Government),
• An establishment engaged in the exhibition of equestrian, acrobatic and other performances, irrespective of the number of employees, and
• Every shop or establishment wherein 10 or more persons are employed or were employed on any day of the preceding 12 months.
Eligibility & Conditions for Claiming Benefits
The Act lays down that any women employed, whether directly or through any agency, for wages in any establishment is eligible to claim maternity benefits if she is expecting a child and has worked for her employer for at least 80 days in the 12 months immediately preceding the date of her expected delivery. (Section 5)
A woman looking forward to maternity benefits could ask the employer to give her light work for a month. Such request should be made atleast 10 weeks before the date of her expected delivery. At that time she needs to produce a certificate confirming her pregnancy. (Section 5)
Also she needs to give a written notice to the employer about 7 weeks before the date of her delivery regarding her absence period pre and post delivery. (Section 5).
• Leave with average pay for 6 weeks before and 6 weeks after the delivery.
• Medical bonus of at least Rs. 1000 extending to Rs. 20000 if the employer is unable to provide free medical care to the women employee.(Section 8) (Amended on 15-04-2008)
• Additional leave with pay for upto 1 month on production of proof, revealing illness due to pregnancy, delivery, miscarriage, or premature birth. (Section 10)
• In case of miscarriage, 6 weeks leave with average pay from the date of miscarriage. (Section 9)
Non Cash Benefits/Privilege
• Light work for 10 weeks before the date of expected pregnancy if she asks for it.
• Two nursing breaks in the course of her daily work until the child attain age of 15 months. (Section 11)
• In case of tubectomy operation leave with wages for 2 weeks. (Section 9A)
• No discharge or dismissal while being on maternity leave. (Section 12)
• No change to her disadvantage in any of the conditions of her employment while on maternity leave. (Section 12)
• Pregnant woman discharged or dismissed may still claim maternity benefit from the employer. (Section 12)
* Women employee who is dismissed on grounds of gross misconduct loses her rights under the Act for Maternity Benefit.
Miscarriage and Tubectomy Operations
Leave with wages at the rate of maternity benefit, for a period of 6 weeks for miscarriage and 2 weeks for tubectomy operation. (Section 9 & 13)
Illness Arising Out of Pregnancy
A woman suffering from illness on account of miscarriage, medical termination of pregnancy, delivery, premature birth is entitled for further leave for 1 month in addition to the leave with wages at the rate of maternity benefit. (Section 10)
Prohibition on Employment during Certain Periods
The Act prohibits an employer from knowingly employing a woman, or any women from working, 6 weeks immediately following the day of her delivery or miscarriage. (Section 4)
Discharge from Employment
The Act prohibits dismissal or discharge or variation in conditions of service to the disadvantage of any pregnant women, while she is absent due to reason under the Act. (Section 12)
She can claim maternity benefit or medical bonus, even if discharged or dismissed during pregnancy. This shall not be applicable in case of dismissal for gross misconduct. (Section 12)
Benefits in Case of Death of a Pregnant Employee
In such case, the maternity benefit shall be paid only for the days up to and including the day of death. (Section 7)
The employer should pay such benefit or amount to the person nominated by the woman and in case there is no such nominee, then her legal representative. (Section 7)
The Act also imposes punishment/penalty if any employer fails to pay maternity benefit to an eligible women or discharges or dismisses the woman during or on account of her absence from work.