Are You Being Denied of Maternity Leaves in India?
Team SoOLEGAL 10 Jul 2023

Are You Being Denied of Maternity Leaves in India?

Are You Being Denied of Maternity Leaves in India?

Maternity leave is a crucial entitlement for working women in India, both in the government and corporate sectors. However, the implementation of parenting laws, particularly the maternity policy, has been a contentious issue between employers and employees. In this article, we will explore the key features and implications of the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961, examine the maternity leave rules in India, compare them to other countries, and discuss the benefits and challenges faced by working women and employers.

Maternity Leave Duration:

·       Extension to 26 weeks: The Maternity Benefit Act increased the maternity leave duration to 26 weeks from the previous 12 weeks.

·       Two-child policy: Women expecting their first and second child are eligible for the extended 26-week leave. For subsequent children, the maternity leave is 12 weeks.

·       Adoption leave: Adoptive mothers are now entitled to 12 weeks of adoption leave from the date of adoption.

Work Arrangements:

·       Work from home option: After the 26-week leave period, women have the option to work from home, subject to mutually agreed terms and conditions with their employers.

·       Light-duty jobs: Pregnant women have the right to request light-duty jobs and avoid tasks that involve standing for long hours or exposure to hazardous substances.

Crèche Facilities:

·       Compulsory provision: Establishments with 50 or more female employees are required to have in-house crèche facilities.

·       Visitation rights: Working mothers can visit the crèche at least four times during the day to attend to their child's needs.

Maternity Benefits in India vs. Other Countries:

India's progress: With the amendment to the maternity leave law in 2017, India now offers more favorable maternity benefits compared to many other countries.  It extensively modifies the old Maternity Act in India and is applicable to all mines, plantations, shops, establishments, and factories employing 10 or more employees, whether in the organized or unorganized sector.

International comparisons: Countries like the United Kingdom, Canada, France, China, Singapore, Brazil, Germany, and Japan have varying durations of maternity leave, with the UK leading with 39 weeks.

Challenges and Considerations:

Infrastructure costs: Employers in India face the challenge of establishing adequate infrastructure, including crèche facilities, which can increase their expenditure.

Increased costs for employers: The extended maternity leave period and the requirement for crèche facilities can result in higher costs for employers. Some may consider hiring male candidates to avoid these obligations.

Salary implications: There is a possibility of upfront salary reductions for women due to the increased costs incurred by employers, leading to potential pay disparities.

Legal Action against Denial of Maternity Leave in India:

Ensuring that women employees do not have to sacrifice their careers to fulfill their roles as mothers is a crucial aspect of a sound HR policy. With the amendment of the maternity law in 2017, employers who deny maternity leave to expecting employees can face significant consequences.

According to the amended maternity leave act in India, it is mandatory for all corporations and establishments to comply with the following maternity leave rules:

Extended Maternity Leave: Organizations must extend maternity leave from the previous three months to six months. However, employers can revoke maternity benefits only if a female employee changes her job during the leave period.

Inclusive Coverage: The benefits of the Maternity Benefit Act apply to all women employees, including those who are already on leave. Employers who violate these maternity benefit laws can face punishment, such as discharging or dismissing a pregnant employee for being absent due to pregnancy, delivery, or post-natal illness.

Legal Remedies: As per the Labor Law in India, women employees have the right to file a case in the labor court against employers who violate maternity leave laws. This includes cases of dismissal or discharge based on a woman's absence due to pregnancy-related reasons.

Penalties for Denial of Maternity Benefits: If an employer denies maternity benefits to a female employee, the labor court can hold the employer accountable. The consequences may include imprisonment for three months, a fine of up to Rs. 5000, or both, in accordance with the rules governing maternity leave in India.

Conclusion: The amended maternity leave laws in India provide clear legal recourse for women employees who are denied their rightful maternity leave. Employers who fail to comply with these laws can face severe penalties. It is essential for both employers and employees to be aware of their rights and obligations to ensure a fair and supportive work environment for expectant mothers. 

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