Because pregnancy can significantly affect a woman’s career and can lead her to face undue prejudices at her place of employment during and after pregnancy, the Indian Legislature has made it compulsory for places of employment to extend certain maternity rights and benefits to all its female employees. Read on to know more about these rights.
Maternity rights come under the purview of the Maternity Benefit Act of 1961. Its clauses are applicable to any establishment that employs 10 or more people. Factories that employ at least 10 people also are law-bound to offer benefits under the Employees State Insurance Act, 1948. And all such companies have to inform their female employees of the rights and benefits in writing or through the mail.
So, let us look at the rights you can claim under your maternity benefits.
What can you claim maternity leave?
In the three months leading up to childbirth, a female employee has to be given salary/wages at the same rate as her average daily income. But, this will apply only if she has worked at her current place of employment for a minimum of 80 days in the last 12 months.
Initially, women could only avail of 12 weeks of leave and she could claim only 6 of those weeks before she delivered her child. In 2017, the government amended the law to prolong the 12 weeks to 26 weeks. And she can use up to 8 weeks of the leave before delivery. More importantly, the new amendment has made the leave flexibly. You can space it out according to your need. Or claim the whole leave all at once. You may even claim a smaller benefit period.
The exact same maternity rights and benefits apply to adoptive or commissioning mothers. However, if a woman already has 2 surviving children, she only gets 12 weeks of leave and benefits.
If an employee decides to undergo a tubectomy, a surgery that will ensure she never conceives again, she will get 2 weeks’ worth of leave after the operation. A miscarriage or a legal termination of pregnancy also warrants six weeks of leave. If she falls ill after delivering a child, or after miscarriage or medical abortion, she can extend her leave by another month. She will be receiving wages during this period.
A few other significant benefits
The cherry on top is that a woman can apply for the work-from-home option if the company’s nature of work permits it, once her maternity leave has ended.
Yet another clause in the amended maternity rights law makes joining the work-force post-pregnancy simpler for women. All companies with employees numbering 50 or above are mandated to establish children’s crèches. So if a woman has no one she can leave her child with or does not have the means to hire an aid, she can bring her child with her to work and place her/him in the crèche. The law allows her to visit her child four times during work hours and she also gets two breaks to nurse her baby.
Rights of the female employee
The Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act has been given more teeth with the provision that no employer can fire a female employee just because she claims a maternity leave or serves her a termination notice when she is on maternity leave. Moreover, the employer can’t tweak with the employment contract and the terms of service that might go against the woman’s interests when she is on maternity leave.
And if a woman is discharged during pregnancy, the company will have to accord her the maternity rights and bonus as underscored by the law unless she has been dismissed on grounds of gross misconduct.
Maternity rights empower a woman who wants to opt for both motherhood and a career.