In India, maternity leave is a legal entitlement for all working women, whether they are employed by the government or in a corporate setting. Working women who are expecting a child are eligible for these fully paid leaves. Many times, maternity leave for private sector companies is disregarded, and as a result, people suffer more. Women don’t ask management how to apply for maternity leave in India because they are afraid of losing their jobs.
Who is eligible to claim Maternity Leave?
The Maternity Benefit Act (Amendment Act),2017 limits an employer to deny maternity leave to a female employee if
– She has worked for more than 80 days for the employer or in the company in the past 12 months
– Paid Maternity leave in India for working women (entitled to 26 weeks leave)
– Prenatal leave (entitled to 8 weeks leave)
– She already has two or more children* (entitled to 12 weeks of leave)
– She has adopted a child of age below 3 months (entitled to 12 months leave)
– She is a surrogate or commissioning mother (entitled to a leave of 12 weeks).
– She had experienced miscarriage (entitled to a leave of 6 weeks on a well-approved doctor prescription )
– She is experiencing ill health caused due to pregnancy, delivery or premature delivery of a child (entitled for a leave of 1 month).
*Prenatal leave, in this case, will be six weeks.
A new proviso is also inserted in the Act, under which women availing maternity leave will be allowed work from home benefits. As per this, an employer may allow nursing mothers to work from home if the nature of work assigned to them so permits, on mutually agreed conditions between the employer and woman employee. Furthermore, the Government of India issued an advisory to provide work from home benefits to nursing mothers where the nature of assigned allows for it for at least one year from the date of childbirth.
Maternity Benefits under the Maternity Leave Act in India-
The key features and implications of the Maternity Benefits Act, 2017 stating the maternity leave rules in India are:
1. Maternity leave duration: The duration of pregnancy leave under the Maternity Benefit Act in India has been increased to 26 weeks from 12 weeks. The extended period is applicable to women in the case of the first and second children. For women who are expecting a child after having two children, the duration of paid maternity leave in India shall be 12 weeks i.e. 6 weeks pre-delivery and 6 weeks post-delivery.
2. For adoptive and commissioning mothers: As per the newly amended maternity laws, the Act now extends to adoptive mothers as well. Every woman who has adopted a child will get 12 weeks of adoption leave in India from the date of adoption.
3. Work from home: As per the newly implemented Maternity Law in India, there is now the option of ‘work from home’ also available for mothers. After the leave period of 26 weeks has expired, a woman can use this option to do her work from home. One can even modify this option according to the nature of work, as the employer levies the terms and conditions.
4. Crèches: As per the amended maternity leave law in India, it is compulsory for every establishment employing 50 or more women to have in-house crèche facilities. Thereby allowing them to visit the facility at least four times during the day.
Legal Actions You Can Take Against Denial of Maternity Leave in India-
As per the amendment in the act of maternity leave in India 2018, it’s mandatory for all corporates and other establishments to enforce the new maternity leave rules as described below:
*Maternity leave will be extended from the present three months to six months by an organization. However, an organization can revoke maternity benefits in India only in case a woman employee changes her job during that period.
*Extension of the benefits of this Act to all women employees, including those who are already on leave. If an employer violates the maternity benefit law and maternity rules in India then he/she is liable for punishment. The violation can be done by discharging or dismissing a pregnant employee for being absent due to pregnancy, delivery or post-natal illness.
*As per the Labour Law in India, the rules for maternity leave in India supports a woman employee, where she can file a case in labor court against the employer for her dismissal or discharge on account of such absence.
*If the employer denies maternity benefit to a female employee, the labor court can hold the employer liable to imprisonment for 3 months, fine the employer with an amount up to Rs. 5000, or both, as per the rules for maternity leave in India.