Maternity Benefits Act of 1961
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Maternity Benefits Act of 1961
Tags: Labour Laws, Legal

Motherhood is very special experience in a woman's life. A woman needs to be able to give quality time to her child without having to worry about whether she will lose her job and her source of income.

That is where the concept of maternity leave and the benefits it entails, comes in handy. The Maternity Benefits Act of 1961, assures her that her rights will be looked after while she is at home to care for her child.

The objective of the Act is to regulate the employment of women in certain establishments for certain periods before and after childbirth to provide for maternity benefits and certain other benefits.

Applicability of the Act
This Act applies to women who work in factories, mines, plantations, circus industries, shops, and establishments with more than 10 employees. It does not apply to employees covered by the Employee State Insurance Act, of 1948. It can be extended to other establishments by the State Governments.

Important Definitions under the Act

Persons entitled to Maternity Benefit
Every woman is entitled to the payment of maternity benefit at the rate of the average daily wage for the period of her actual absence immediately preceding and including the day of her delivery and for the six weeks immediately following that day.

The average daily wage is calculated on the basis of the amount payable to her for the days on which she has worked during the period of three calendar months immediately preceding the date from which she has absented herself on account of maternity, or one rupee a day, whichever is higher.

To be eligible for maternity benefit, a woman should have worked in an establishment for not less than 160 days in the twelve months immediately prior to the date of her expected delivery.

The maximum period for which any women can be entitled to maternity benefit is 26 weeks.

If a women dies during this period, the maternity benefit will be payable only for the days up to and including the day of her death. However, if she delivers a child and dies during the delivery or during the period of six weeks following the delivery, the employer will be liable or the maternity benefits of the entire period of six weeks immediately following the day of her delivery. If the child dies during this period, the liability will be only up to and including the day of the death of the child.

In case the woman dies before receiving the benefit, the amount must be paid to her nominee or legal representative.

In the event of a miscarriage, the woman must produce relevant proof that she has suffered a miscarriage. This will entitle her to receive leave with wages at the rate of the maternity benefit, for a period of six weeks immediately following the date of the miscarriage.

Woman who are ill on account of pregnancy, delivery, premature birth of a child or a miscarriage are also entitled to a period of absence or to leave with wages at the rate of materinity benefit for a maximum period of one month. However, they must submit proof of their illness.

Notice of claim for maternity benefit
A pregnant woman is required to give her employer a notice in writing, stating that the maternity benefit that she is entitled to should be given to her or any person nominated by her and that she will not be working during the period in which she receives the benefit. This notice should start from the date when she was absent from work, provided that date is not earlier than six weeks from the date of her expected delivery. This notice can also be given soon after the delivery.

On receiving the notice, the employer is bound to permit the woman to absent herself from work until the expiry of six weeks after the delivery. In case a woman fails to give notice, this does not disentitle her from claiming maternity benefit. The employer is still liable to pay her the amount due to her.

Dismissal during absence on account of pregnancy
When a woman absent herself from work on account of illness during pregnancy, she may not be discharged or dismissed by her employer or issued notice for dismissal. It is equally unlawful for the employer to alter any of the conditions of her service to her disadvantage.

If she is discharged or dismissed from service, she should still be entitled to receiving maternity benefit or medical bonus. She cannot be deprived of these.

The woman can be dismissed only if she is guilty of gross misconduct. In this case, the employer is well within his rights to deprive her of the maternity benefit or medical bonus. 

A woman who has been deprived of maternity benefit or medical bonus, may within sixty days from the date on which the order was communicated to her, appeal to the relevant authority. This authority has the final say on whether the woman should or should not be deprived of these benefits.

If a woman continues to report to working during the period when she is entitled to maternity benefit, she forfeits her claim to the maternity benefit for the period. However, individual companies may allow the woman to take her leave as late as possible so that she may have more time to nurse the baby later on.

Punishment under the Maternity Benefit Act of 1961
An employer who violates the provisions of the Maternity Benefits Act can be punishable with imprisonment up to 3 months or with fine up to 500 rupees or both. Besides, if the violation is related to the non-payment of maternity benefit or any other amount, the court can recover this amount as if it is a fine and pay it to the aggrieved person.

Maternity Benefits Act of 1961 - in short

According to this act, first-time mothers can take up to 6 months, or 26 weeks of paid maternity leave. For subsequent children, the mother can take 3 months, or 12 weeks off. During this time, the employer must pay the employee her entire salary.

The benefits include;

The Maternity Benefit Amendment Bill of 2017 increased the duration of paid maternity leave from 12 weeks to 26 weeks. This reform aims to support working mothers both physically and emotionally after childbirth.

In addition to maternity leave, the Act also provides benefits for;

Author: thewiki Editorial
Maternity Benefits Act of 1961