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Mothers Day 2022: Understanding Maternity Benefits Availability for Working Indian Mothers

Being a mother is considered to be a huge blessing in every society. The opportunity to nurture a new human being and induct them in the world is a huge responsibility that requires a lot of skill, courage and patience. On top of that, the job is never-ending – for as long as a woman lives, she is always a mother to their children. In order to celebrate the enormity of this role, second Sunday of May is celebrated as Mother’s Day every year across the globe.
Being a mother in itself is a daunting task. To do so while having a career is all the more commendable. Women play a major role in the growth of a country’s economy. Causing her to not participate in the economic activities in favor of childbearing and rearing responsibilities is a great disservice to women as well as to the country. With an aim to prevent this and enable women to stay in the workforce even while being mothers, Maternity Benefit Act was passed and improved upon in India.

Maternity Benefit Act

The Maternity Benefit Act is a law to regulate the employment of women in certain establishments for a certain period before and after child-birth and to provide for maternity benefits and certain other benefits. The law was first framed in 1961 and amended in 2017 to improve and adapt to the international standard of maternity benefits. According to the new act, the following are the benefits a woman is entitled to on account of pregnancy and/or childbirth:
– A paid maternity leave for 26 weeks (It was 12 weeks before the amendment). The Act provides that a woman will be paid maternity benefit at the rate of her average daily wage in the three months preceding her maternity leave. However, the woman needs to have worked for the employer for at least 80 days in the 12 months preceding the date of her expected delivery. Out of the 26 weeks, up to eight weeks can be claimed before delivery. However, one need not structure leaves in this manner—it is also possible take the entire 26 weeks of leave after the delivery. Also, these are maximum periods of claim and one can claim the benefit for a smaller period as well.
– The prenatal leave is also increased from 6 to 8 weeks.
– A woman who is already a mother of 2 children is eligible for 12 weeks of maternity leave from the 3rd child.
– If a woman adopts a child under the age of 3 months, then she is eligible for a leave of 12 weeks.
– Work from home – The Act has also introduced an enabling provision relating to “work from home” for women, which may be exercised after the expiry of the 26 weeks’ leave period. Depending upon the nature of work, women employees may be able to avail this benefit on terms that are mutually agreed with the employer
– Creche Facility – The MB Amendment Act makes crèche facility mandatory for every establishment employing 50 or more employees. Women employees would be permitted to visit the crèche 4 times during the day.
– Employee Awareness – The Amendment makes it mandatory for employers to educate women about the maternity benefits available to them at the time of their appointment. Termination of employment without any reason, which coincides with the first day of maternity leave, would be deemed to be termination on account of pregnancy and thus illegal and unjustifiable, despite the contract of employment stating that termination could occur without the provision of reasons.