Maternity Leave

What is maternity leave?

Maternity leave is the paid time off employers provide to pregnant women or new mothers to take care of themselves and their children. The Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 under the Indian Government sets the maternity leave rules in India.

Under this Act, maternity leave offers to-be-mothers paid time off work, extra money for medical needs, and breaks for nursing their babies.

The Maternity Benefit Act of 1961 also takes into account the “commissioning mother,” who’s a biological mom using her egg to create an embryo implanted in another woman. It extends maternity leave to 26 weeks for all moms, with 8 weeks before delivery.

A woman with two or more kids gets 12 weeks off, with 6 weeks before delivery. Adoptive moms and commissioning mothers also get 12 weeks of leave. If the job allows, moms can work from home during this time.

What are the eligibility criteria for maternity leave?

To be eligible for maternity leave, women in India need to have been employed with their current employer for a minimum of 80 days in the 12 months leading up to their expected delivery date.

This requirement applies to pregnant women, those opting for adoption, or those who have faced miscarriages. The Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 extends to both private and public sector organizations with more than 10 employees. It excludes self-employed individuals and businesses with fewer than 10 employees.

However, if a woman works in a place covered by the Employees State Insurance Act, 1948, she won’t be covered by the Maternity Benefit Act. But if she earns more than Rs. 21,000 per month, she’ll still get benefits from the Maternity Benefit Act.

The Act defines “woman” broadly as any female employed for wages in any establishment, irrespective of marital status or age. This includes all types of employment arrangements, such as casual or contract labor, with the responsibility for maternity benefits extending to the principal employer.

What are the benefits of the maternity leave policy?

The main importance of the maternity leave policy in India is the social responsibility it entails. It protects working women to carry out their maternity duties Providing such protection brings several benefits for the mother, her child, the economy, and society as a whole.

Here are four key benefits of the policy:

1. Enforces a fundamental human right

Maternity protection is vital for respecting human rights. It ensures that women can work without the fear of discrimination in the workplace. It serves as the support they need for a secure and fair workplace during pregnancy. This is why so many human rights treaties stress the importance of maternity protection.

2. Promotes gender equality

All genders in the world can take care of children. However, women are the only ones who can do it physically and breastfeed newborns. The maternity policy ensures that women can fulfill this natural role without jeopardizing their ability to work or financial security.

Therefore, maternity requires special consideration to achieve true equality. Protecting maternity rights is fundamental to ensuring equal opportunities and fair treatment for women in the workplace.

3. Supports maternal and child care

Maternity leave provides mothers with the time they need to recover from childbirth and bond with their newborns. It allows them to focus on caring for their babies without worrying about work responsibilities.

This support helps promote maternal well-being and strengthens the mother-child relationship. Such a relationship is crucial for the child’s development and overall family health.

4. Upholds economic growth

Maternity protection supports women’s continued contribution to economic growth. It maintains the health of women and children, benefiting individuals, families, businesses, and societies. It strengthens women’s economic roles and labor force attachment.

Employers can recruit and retain skilled female employees more effectively with maternity protection. Implementing maternity protection measures leads to

  • Lower staff turnover
  • Decreased absenteeism
  • Higher rates of return after leave
  • Reduced health costs
  • Increased employee morale and loyalty

What are the rules of maternity leave policy in India?

The rules of maternity leave policy in India are the same for government as well as private sector employees.

  • Employers cannot employ a woman for six weeks after childbirth, miscarriage, or abortion.
  • Pregnant women cannot be given tough or risky tasks four weeks before delivery.
  • Maternity benefits include payment at the average daily wage for the preceding three months, or minimum wages, or ten rupees per day, whichever is highest.
  • To get maternity leave, a woman must have worked for 80 days in the past year.
  • Maternity leave is 26 weeks (8 weeks before the due date) for some, and 12 weeks for others.
  • If a woman dies during maternity leave, benefits go to her nominee or legal heir.
  • A medical bonus is provided if no free prenatal and postnatal care is given.
  • Two weeks of leave is given for a tubectomy operation.
  • Women adopting babies under three months get 12 weeks of leave.
  • Working from home during maternity leave is allowed if the job permits.
  • Establishments with 50+ employees must have a crèche.

What steps should you take to prepare for maternity leave?

There are several things to ensure and follow before you step into a maternity leave. It is mostly unadvised to go on maternity leave without notice. The steps to follow before taking maternity leave are as follows:

  • Go through the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 (with the 2017 update) thoroughly to know your rights.
  • Plan your leave and discuss with a co-worker or teammate to take up your responsibilities.
  • Have a conversation with your manager/team leader.
  • Share your plan with your co-workers and encourage new opportunities for them.
  • Reach out to external stakeholders and keep them in the loop.
  • Stay in contact with your team to show support.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. Is maternity leave paid in India?

Yes, maternity leave is a paid leave in India. The Maternity Benefit Act ensures that employers pay in full amount to women claiming this leave.

2. How to claim maternity benefits?

To claim maternity benefits, a woman employed in an establishment must:

  • Give written notice to her employer, stating her intention to claim maternity benefits.
  • Specify whether the benefits should be paid to her or a nominated person.
  • Refrain from working during the maternity benefit period.

3. How long is maternity leave in India?

The maternity leave in India is usually for 26 weeks for women having their first or second children. It is reduced to 12 weeks for succeeding childbirth. Adoptive and surrogate mothers also get 12 weeks of paid leave.

4. How many times can maternity leave be availed?

There is no limit on how many times a woman can avail of maternity leave. It can be availed for each pregnancy. The duration of the leave is limited after the first two childbirths.

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