Maternity Leave Regulations, Eligibility, Benefits and Challenges in India

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Maternity Leave Regulations, Eligibility, Benefits and Challenges in India

Maternity leave refers to the period of absence from work granted to a mother before and after the birth of her child. It is designed to provide women with the necessary time to recover from childbirth, bond with their newborn, and handle the initial challenges of parenting. Maternity leave policies vary from country to country, and in India, they are governed by the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961.

Here’s an overview of maternity leave rules, eligibility, benefits and challenges in India:

Maternity Leave Rules in India:

The Maternity Benefit Act, 1961, is the primary legislation governing maternity leave in India. It stipulates the duration and conditions of maternity leave for women employees.

According to Section 5(3) of the Act, “Every woman shall be entitled to, and her employer shall be liable for, the payment of maternity benefit at the rate of the average daily wage for the period of her actual absence, that is to say, the period immediately preceding the day of her delivery, the actual day of her delivery and any period immediately following that day.”

The Act also specifies the duration of maternity leave as 26 weeks, including 8 weeks before the expected delivery date (pre-natal leave) and 18 weeks after the delivery (post-natal leave). Additionally, the Act outlines provisions for maternity leave in India in case of miscarriage or medical termination, stating that a woman is entitled to 6 weeks of maternity leave in such circumstances.

Eligibility:

Section 5(2) of the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961, outlines the eligibility criteria for maternity benefits. It states that to be eligible for maternity benefits, a woman must have worked for her employer for a minimum period of 80 days in the twelve months immediately preceding her expected date of delivery.

This eligibility criterion applies to women working in both the organized and unorganized sectors, encompassing various establishments such as factories, mines, plantations, shops, and others.

Benefits:

The Act mandates that during the maternity leave period, the employer is obligated to pay the woman employee her full salary.

Furthermore, Section 8 of the Act provides for the payment of a medical bonus to women employees who do not avail of pre-natal and post-natal leave and can provide evidence of undergoing medical check-ups during pregnancy. The medical bonus is an additional benefit aimed at supporting women in accessing necessary medical care during pregnancy.

Challenges:

Despite legal provisions, challenges persist in ensuring widespread awareness and implementation of maternity benefits. A study published in the International Journal of Advanced Research in Management and Social Sciences (IJARMSS) highlights challenges such as lack of awareness among women about their entitlements, discrimination by employers, and financial constraints faced by employers in providing full pay during maternity leave.

Additionally, the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) has emphasized the need for greater awareness and sensitivity among employers towards the maternity rights of women employees to address discrimination and biases in the workplace. By addressing these challenges through effective enforcement of laws, awareness campaigns, and supportive workplace policies, India can ensure better maternity benefits for women employees, thereby promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment in the workforce.