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Maternity Benefits

Maternity benefits to women employees – a must have compliance

The Maternity benefits in India is monitored under the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 (for non-
ESI employees) & Employees’ State Insurance Act, 1948, as per these Act applicability to
the Establishments, Factories and other organisations. Employers are required to inform
women employees about the maternity benefits available under the Maternity Benefit Act on
their joining their organisation. The law allows women employees to work from home in
addition to the maternity benefit period if the nature of work allows that. In a move to support
women employees during pregnancy and after childbirth, Indian law makes it mandatory for
the applicable establishments to offer due maternity benefits to women employees.

The birth of a child marks a major step in the life of a woman. Over the years, little has been
done to provide women employees support by providing maternity benefits. It’s vastly
realised and understood that women are forced to quit jobs and everyone thinks this is
normal. Recently the government has taken measures to support the role of new working
mothers in the country and decided to draft maternity leave rules. The government has
introduced the Maternity Benefit Act in the Rajya Sabha, that has increased the number of
leaves for pregnant women to 26 weeks, which was previously a mere 12 weeks. The move
comes across as a major relief and helps retain women employees.

Benefits of Maternity leave structure in India

To ensure the privileges are extended to women employees during pregnancy and after
child birth, Indian law makes it mandatory for all organisations to offer maternity benefits to
women employees. Maternity benefits in India are represented by the Maternity Benefit Act,
1961 that applies to all shops and foundations with at least 10 employees. Women who work
in processing plants with at least 10 workers are given maternity benefits as accessible
under the Employees’ State Insurance Act, 1948.

It is significant for woman employees to know the advantages they can benefit from and the
rights under the law.

Assist in tiding over – gender inequality

One of the major benefits of providing maternity benefits to women at their workplace is the
fact that not does it feel encouraging in increased women employment, but also helps to
reduce the gender bias, where in India as such we have very less number of women who
work in organisations as against way number of men in any department of various

organisations. Along with helping to retain women employment, the Maternity Benefit Act
also helps to encourage women to leave the comfort of their homes and pursue a
professional career, thus being independant.

Empowering women employees

It has been a practice where women are expected to quit jobs at the earliest signs of
pregnancy. Recently, the Indian government has taken initiatives to consider women’s jobs
to include everything other than that of taking care of the family. As a society we are more
accepting of working women now, by providing women with employee benefits such as
relaxing the maternity leave rules, the number of women forced to quit jobs has also been
reducing significantly.

Government supports employees

With the government having introduced an amendment to the Maternity Benefit Act, there
are reports of employers laying off women employees, which also saw a major drop in the
number of women being hired, following the government’s move. To manage this , the
government has planned a few more measures, which are still in the pipeline, in order to
discourage such practices and to provide women with a level playing field to their male
counterparts. Despite the delayed move to help retain women employees, there is now hope.

The amendments to the rules are as follows

S.NoCategoryBefore AmendmentAfter AmendmentNew Addition
1Pregnancy & Delivery
(Sec 5)
The Maternity Benefit Act originally provided maternity leave of 12 weeks.
Out of 12 weeks leave up to six weeks leave could be claimed before delivery (Prenatal).
Under the new law, maternity leave is raised to 26 weeks.
The prenatal leave is also extended to eight weeks.A woman with already two or more children is entitled to 12 weeks’ maternity leave only. The prenatal leave, in this case, remains at six weeks.
2Payment of Medical Bonus
(Sec 8)
Every woman entitled to maternity benefit under this Act shall also be entitled to receive from her employer / ESIC a medical bonus of Rs.2500/-, if no pre-natal confinement and post-natal care are provided by the employer free of charge.Every woman entitled to maternity benefit under this Act and shall also be entitled to receive from the employer a medical bonus of Rs.3500/- as per Maternity benefit Act & Rs.5000/- as per ESI Act from ESIC, if no pre-natal confinement and post-natal care are provided by the employer/ ESIC free of charge.
3Adoptive / Commissioning mothers
(Sec 5e(4))
Commissioning mother’ and ‘Adopting mother’ will get the benefit of 12 weeks maternity leave.
4Creche Facility
(Sec 11A)
Every establishment having fifty or more employees shall have the facility of creche within such distance as may be prescribed, either separately or along with common facilities.
5Work from home option
Sec 5(5)
In the case where the
nature of work
assigned to a woman
is of such nature that
she may work from
home, the employer
may allow her to do
so after availing of the
maternity benefit for
such period and on
such conditions as
the employer and the
woman may mutually
agree.
6Dismissal during Absence of Pregnancy (Sec 12)For a woman who is absent from work in accordance with the provisions of Maternity Benefit Act, it is unlawful of her employer to discharge or dismiss her during that period of absence.

Having said all of this and being better late than never, the government and the legislatures have taken steps to support women in working environment and the tasks henceforth lies in the organisations talking it up to initiate and have steps to induct more women and support their work environment and follow the compliances to taking it all seriously.

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