Know About The Maternity Benefit Act And Your Rights

Women have been portrayed, historically, as homemakers and the ones who leave their jobs when they start a family. Safe to say, this is not necessarily the case today. In fact, a significant number of pregnant women want to get back to work once everything at home is settled after the birth of their babies. Be it ambition or the financial need of the family, working women are transitioning into working moms rather than ending their careers as they embark on the journey of motherhood.

If you are on your way to becoming a new mother with a career to juggle alongside it, it is important to know about your rights and the laws that protect your interests. If you are still planning to get pregnant or have already started to notice the early signs of pregnancy in your body, it is high time that you get to know about this. After all, it is better to make informed decisions for yourself at the right time rather than being forced into difficult situations due to lack of foresight or pre-planning. To make your pregnancy and motherhood just a bit easier, here is everything that you should know about maternity in work culture.

Maternity Benefit Act

While the thought about working women’s benefits had been present in the past too, the 1961 Maternity Benefits Act was woefully lacking and was not sustainable in today’s scenario. Although this act currently applies to all workplaces that employ more than 10 people, the amendments made in it in 2017 are what make it more functional and beneficial.

The Indian Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act, 2017, has brought some much-needed changes and has filled in where there were gaps. Here are the key features of it:

Maternity Leave Rules for Mothers

New mother making use of maternity leave policy
  • The amendment has increased the previous maternity leave duration of 12 weeks to 26 weeks if a mother has two children. The earlier maternity leave law did not take into account the needs of a growing family that has more than one kid to take care of.
  • In these 26 weeks, you can take up to 8 weeks off when you are in the third trimester of pregnancy, before childbirth. You can structure your leave as per your choice but there is some maximum number of smaller leave claims that you can make. It might vary from organisation to organisation.
  • However, the law does not give the same benefits to mothers with more than two children. If the maternity leave is required for a third or even fourth child, the duration is once again back to 12 weeks.
  • For women who are adopting children younger than three months, up to 12 weeks of maternity leave can be availed. Similarly, women who are donating their eggs for other women to get pregnant can also get up to 12 weeks of leave.
  • The one important prerequisite to not here is that you need to have worked for at least 80 days in the past 12 months at the organisation that you are currently working in. 

Maternity Leave Policy Rights provided by Employers

Woman using maternity leave law to work from home
  • If the Maternity Benefit Act applies to the workplace (employing over 10 people for more than a year), then the employer is required to inform female employees in writing about the maternity benefits available to them at the joining.
  • The employer should allow pregnant women and new mothers to take the many benefits of the Maternity Benefit Act. The policy allows pregnant women or mothers to work from home for some time if the nature of their job agrees with that along with availing other maternity benefits.
  • An employer cannot fire a woman asking for maternity leave and neither can he/ she issue a termination notice to a woman who is still on maternity leave while the notice will expire before the leave ends. An employer cannot also change the conditions of service to a woman’s disadvantage while she takes maternity leave.
  • The employer has to pay maternity benefits and medical bonus to a woman who was dismissed from her job during pregnancy for any other reason than gross misconduct.
  • According to a standard maternity leave policy, the employer provides a woman maternity benefit pay at the rate of her average daily wage/ salary in the three months before her maternity leave.
  • The employer needs to have systems, procedures and infrastructure in place that allows women to claim their maternity benefits without any hassle. This may include creches at the workplace, breastfeeding areas, revised laws, non-discriminatory performance appraisals along with any other health and safety measures required for working moms. This rule is especially mandatory for any organisation that has more than 50 employees.

Maternity Act Benefits for Related Cases

Woman recovering from illness after delivery in the hospital
  • Women who undergo tubectomy operations to prevent future pregnancies can also avail a paid leave of up to 6 weeks after the operation, to recover.
  • In the case of miscarriages or abortions, the maternity leave law allows women to take up to 6 weeks leave after the procedure has taken place. 
  • Sometimes there are complications in pregnancy that cause problems in childbirth and there have been cases of women falling sick after delivery, abortion or miscarriage. In such cases, you are allowed to take an additional one month paid leave, outside of the already given maternity leave.

We understand that for many of you, a career is equally as important as being a mother and you plan to walk both these paths equally well. Make sure that your own workplace has its Maternity Leave Policy in order and is ready to provide you with the benefits when the time comes. With the changing scenario and laws of the workplace in modern India, there is little you can’t achieve in life without compromising on either the personal and professional aspects of it!

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