Maternity Benefit Act - A Complete Guide

With India’s population continuously rising, maintaining maternal health is paramount. The Maternity Benefit Act is a piece of legislation enacted in India to protect the rights of working women during pregnancy, childbirth, and after delivery. The act provides for paid leave and several other benefits for women who are expecting or have recently given birth. The importance of the Maternity Benefit Act lies in the fact that it recognizes the unique physical and emotional needs of women during pregnancy and helps to create a supportive work environment for them.

Recent statistics show that in India, only 17% of women have access to paid maternity leave, and the Maternity Benefit Act is a crucial step toward improving this situation. The Hindustan Times ranks 120th out of 190 countries regarding female labor force participation and the Maternity Benefit Act. It aims to address this disparity by enabling women to take time off work to care for their newborns without sacrificing their careers or financial stability.

Let’s discuss this act in detail here.

The Maternity Benefits Act, 1961: Understanding the Policies

The Maternity Benefits Act of 1961 applied to all organizations with ten or more employees and provided maternity benefits to women who had worked there for at least eighty days. Its main provisions included these features.

  • Leave Duration

    Under the Maternity Benefits Act of 1961, a pregnant woman was entitled to a maximum of twelve weeks of maternity leave. This duration included six weeks of leave before the expected delivery date and six weeks after delivery. In case of a miscarriage or medical termination of pregnancy, the woman was entitled to six weeks of maternity leave. The law also allowed for an extension of up to one month in certain circumstances, such as illness or complications arising from the pregnancy or delivery.

  • Job Protection

    The act provided job protection to women during their maternity leave. This meant that an employer could not dismiss a woman on the grounds of her taking maternity leave. Additionally, a woman was entitled to return to the same position and pay she held before taking maternity leave. If the employer had filled the place during her absence, the woman was entitled to a position equivalent in status and pay. The law also prohibited an employer from assigning hazardous work to the health of a pregnant or nursing woman.

  • Remuneration During Leave

    In 1961, the act introduced remuneration during maternity leave. The law required the employer to pay the pregnant woman full wages for the entire duration of her maternity leave, whether before or after delivery. The woman was also entitled to receive a medical bonus of ₹250, which was to be paid by the employer if the woman had been working in the organization for at least 80 days in the 12 months preceding her expected delivery date. If the employer did not provide maternity benefits, the woman could approach the Maternity Benefit Inspector to seek redressal.

  • Financial Benefit

    The Maternity Benefits Act enacted in 1961 provided certain financial benefits to pregnant women during maternity leave. During the twelve weeks of maternity leave, a woman was entitled to receive her full wages or salary as if she were working. This meant that she would continue to receive her regular pay during her absence from work. In addition, if the woman were eligible for a medical bonus under the law, she would receive a lump sum amount as a cash incentive for prenatal and postnatal care. These financial benefits ensured that pregnant women did not suffer any financial hardship due to taking time off work for maternity purposes.

The Maternity Benefits Act, 2017 – Learn What Changed in Over 50 Years!

The Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act of 2017 is a piece of legislation that amended the original Maternity Benefit Act of 1961. The amendment aimed to improve the rights and benefits of women who are expecting or have recently given birth and help to reduce the challenges of working mothers in balancing their work and family responsibilities, encourage more women to join and remain in the workforce and promote gender diversity and equality in the workplace.

The key features of the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act of 2017

  • Extended Maternity Leave Rules

    The amendment increased the period of maternity leave from 12 weeks to 26 weeks for the first two children and 12 for beyond 2 children, making India one of the countries with the longest periods of maternity leave in the world.

  • Adoption Leave Rules

    The amendment provides the same period of leave (12 weeks) for women who adopt a child under the age of 3 months.

  • Crèche Facilities

    The amendment requires establishments with 50 or more employees to provide crèche facilities and empowers the government to prescribe the standards for these facilities.

  • Work from Home

    The amendment expands the provision for work from home, making it available to all women, regardless of the nature of their work.

  • Employee-Friendly Workplace

    The amendment seeks to create a more employee-friendly workplace by requiring employers to inform women about their rights and entitlements under the act and to maintain records of the leave taken by women.

  • Commissioning mothers

    The amendment includes commissioning mothers, or biological mothers who use surrogacy, within the act’s purview, making them eligible for the benefits provided under the act.

The Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act 2017 is a significant step forward in improving the rights and benefits of women who are expecting or have recently given birth.

Eligibility Criteria for Taking Leave According to the Maternity Act

The eligibility criteria for taking maternity leave according to the Maternity Benefit Act are as follows:

  • Employment as a working woman: The woman must be employed in an establishment that is covered by the act (i.e., an establishment employing 10 or more people).
  • Length of service: The woman must have worked in the establishment for at least 80 days in the 12 months preceding the delivery date.
  • Notice period: The woman must inform her employer of her pregnancy and the expected delivery date at least six weeks before the date of delivery.
  • Continuous service: The woman must have been in continuous service for the 80 days immediately preceding the delivery date.
  • Proof of pregnancy: The woman must provide evidence of her pregnancy, such as a medical certificate from a registered medical practitioner.

What Are the Challenges Faced by Employers in Providing Maternity Benefits to the Working Mothers?

Employers face several challenges in providing maternity benefits to working mothers. Some of the significant challenges are:

  • Cost: Providing maternity benefits can be a significant financial burden for employers, especially small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), who may need more resources to cover the costs of paid maternity leave and other benefits.
  • Recruitment and retention: Providing childcare support for working mothers can make a company an attractive workplace, but it can also lead to difficulties in recruiting and retaining talent, especially if competitors offer different benefits.
  • Workload management: Employers may struggle to manage the workloads of employees who take extended maternity leave, especially if they cannot hire temporary replacements.
  • Legal compliance: Employers must ensure that they comply with the Maternity Benefit Act and other relevant laws and regulations, which can be complex and time-consuming.
  • Attitudes and stereotypes: Some employers may hold attitudes or stereotypes about women and motherhood, making it difficult to provide equal opportunities and benefits to working mothers.

Despite these challenges, providing on-site childcare facilities should be a priority for every business in India, as it helps create a supportive work environment, promotes gender equality, and benefits both the company and the employees.

Comply with Maternity Benefits Act, 2017 and Help Your Employees with Sunshine

Sunshine Preschool and Corporate Crèche are here to help employers comply with the Maternity Benefit Act by offering high-quality childcare facilities. By partnering with us, employers can provide working mothers access to a safe, nurturing, and convenient environment for their children.

This not only meets the requirements of the act but also provides a valuable support system for working mothers. Our daycare at workplace facilities is staffed by trained and experienced professionals dedicated to providing children with the best possible care. So, contact us today if you are an employer looking for a partner to help you comply with the Maternity Benefit Act and support working mothers.

Content Sources: MOL&E, PIB, Hindustan Times


Amit Prasad

Amit Prasad is a Vice-Chairman & MD of Sunshine Preschool & Corporate Crèche . He conceptualized the preschool & corporate crèche model way back in 2005. He splits his time between his ventures, at Sunshine his focus is on strategy. Amit loves to travel to new places, play golf and read biographies.

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