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THE MATERNITY BENEFIT ACT 1961 was enacted to maintain stability in employment of women working in factories, mines, plantations, shops and other areas. It provide 12 weeks paid leave to women employees before or after child birth.
44th session of Indian Labour Conference (ILC) put recommendation to extend the period of maternity leave from 12 weeks to 24 weeks. Later During 45th and 46th session of ILC, The purpose for enhancement of maternity leave was taken into consideration and acknowledged.
The Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Bill 2016, which is an amendment to Maternity Benefit Act 1961 was passed in Rajya Sabha on 11th August 2016, Then in Lok Sabha on 9th March 2017 and received finally President’s approval on 27th March 2017. Various provisions of The Maternity Benefit Amendment Act 2017 came into existence from 1st April 2017. But, provision of Crèche facility  came into force from 1st July 2017.
The Maternity Benefit Act protects the employment of women during the time of her maternity and entitles her of a “Maternity Benefit” – Full paid absence from work, to take care of her child.
It aims to regulate the employment of women employees in certain establishments for particular period before or after the baby is born.
The Maternity Benefit Act originally provided Maternity Benefit of 12 weeks. In 2017, the law was amended to extend the period to 26 weeks.
WHAT IS MATERNITY LEAVE ?
Maternity leave is a period of leave from her work, when the women employer is pregnant or in other words Maternity leave in India is a paid leave of absence from work that allows women employees to take care of her their newly born baby, and gives benefit of retaining their jobs at the same time. Maternity leave is a right of every working women and no women should be deprived of it.
As per The Maternity leave Benefit Act, 1961 women employees get paid leave of 12 weeks after delivery for taking care of new born baby. In 2017, The Maternity leave Benefit Act was amended which brought lot of necessary amendments in the act.
WHO IS ENTITLED TO MATERNITY BENEFIT ?
A women employee who have completed working for 80 days in current establishment of last 12 months is only eligible for Maternity Benefits.
WHAT WERE THE AMENDMENTS BROUGHT UNDER THIS ACT ?
PAYMENT : Payment is calculated on the basis of average daily wage for the period of absence.
EXTENSION OF PERIOD : The Maternity Amendment 2017 has extended the period from 12 weeks to 26 weeks. The pregnant women can divide her leave as post and pre delivery.
· Period of leave for women who are expecting before having 2 Children [Sec 5(3)] : 26 weeks
Pre – Delivery Period : up to maximum of 8 weeks
Post – Delivery Period : remaining period out of 26 weeks.
· Period of leave for women who are expecting after having 2 Children [Sec5(3)] : 12 weeks
Pre – Delivery Period : up to Maximum of 6 weeks
Post – Delivery Period : remaining period out of 12 weeks.
ADOPTIVE MOTHERS : The period of leave is of 12 weeks. The large starts from the day of adoption and is only applicable for the baby below three month of age [Sec5(3)].
COMMISSIONING MOTHERS : The Maternity leave is of 12 weeks leave for the biological mother who imparts her egg to create embryo which is then planted in another women [Sec5(4)].
TUBECTOMY DURING PREGNANCY : In case of tubectomy, a women is allowed to take 2 weeks leave , from the date of tubectomy operation.
CRÈCHE FACILITY : Establishment consisting 50 or more employees is under an obligation to have crèche facility near establishment or at small distance. A women is allowed to visit crèche 4 times a day during her working time.
MATERNITY BENEFITS AND INDIAN CONSTITUTION :
· Article 15 – Right to social equality.
· Article 15(3) – Main objective of this article is to keep in view weak physical position of women - “Protective Discrimination”
· Article 16 – Right to social equality in employment
· Article 21 – Right to life and personal liberty, therefore women employee must get all the facilities and assistance that she requires during pregnancy.
· Article 39(d) – Right to equal pay for equal work
· Article 39(e) – Right that health and strength of workers should not be abused
· Article 41 – Provision for securing the right to work and to education
· Article 42 – State shall make provision for security just and humane condition of work and for maternity relief
· Article 46 – Right to improvement in employment opportunities and conditions of the working women
IMPORTANCE OF MATERNITY BENEFITS ACT :
The fundamental purpose for providing maternity benefits is to preserve the self respect, to protect the physical and mental health of women and complete safety of the Child. The main objective of the Maternity benefit is to protect the dignity of “Motherhood” and providing complete health care to women and her child. It also benefits to safeguard working women.
NORMS UNDER THE MATERNITY LEAVE :
· The employer should ensure the health and safety of her employee.
· She must not get long working hours or difficult task, ten weeks before the delivery
· She should not be involved in any work for 6 weeks after the delivery or miscarriage
· Employer cannot discharge or dismiss a women employee during her maternity leave.
COMPENSATION RULES AND BENEFITS UNDER THE ACT :
· Medical bonus is entitled in addition to the maternity leave , if free medical health care is not provided.
· Mother can further get benefit of Rs. 6000 under NATIONAL FOOD SECURITY ACT , 2013
· An additional paid up leave of 1 month after 26 weeks of Maternity leave if women shows proof of physically or mentally unfit to join .
· 2 nursing breaks are allowed in between the working hours until baby turns into 15 months old.
DISADVANTAGES OF THE MATERNITY BENEFITS ACT :
· The Maternity Benefit Act is not applicable in establishments with less than 10 employees or in unorganized sector.
· The act does not create a provision for paternity leave
· The act puts burden of crèche facility and maternity leave on employer.
DIFFERENT SCHEMES IMPLEMENTED BY CENTRAL GOVERNMENT FOR MATERNITY BENEFITS:
· Indira Gandhi Matritva SahyogYojana (IGMSY)
· Rajiv Gandhi National Crèche Scheme For Children of Working Mothers
The Maternity Benefit Act is a boon for the working women as they don’t have job insecurity during their maternity period. Also it provide satisfactory duration of time for taking care of women as well as her child’s health. It also supports women and make them economically strong. There are some loopholes that need to be filled like clarification is still awaiting for crèche facility, work from home and accessibility of this act in unorganized sectors.
 crèche – Child care centre , an organisation where group of people take care of children in place of their parents
 tubectomy – it is a surgical procedure in which lady’s fallopian tube is blocked. The main aim of this surgery is to prevent the sperm from reaching the egg to fertilise it.