What is the Maternity Leave Policy in India?

Maternity leaves in India mean a period legally allowing an Indian woman to be absent from work for a specific number of weeks before and after she gives birth. This period is indispensable so as to take care of the new-born child in the early stages of their life.

This time period of leave also includes the last few weeks of pregnancy for the women, also known as parental leave.

The Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 regulates the law of maternity leaves in India, which lays down the provisions relating to several benefits that mothers receive in India.

The Act also states the nature of maternal leave and employment benefits available to women employed in both the private and public sectors. This is a ‘fully paid leave’ available to a pregnant and working woman, to take care of herself and her child.

As the maternity leave law in India was amended by the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act, 2017 which came into effect on April 1, 2017, it extensively modifies the old Maternity Act in India and is applicable to all mines, plantations, shops, establishments, and factories , whether in the organized
or unorganized sector.

As per the Act, for eligibility of maternity leave, a woman must have been working as an employee in an establishment for a period of at least 80 days in the past 12 months.

Initially, Indian maternity leave was for three months, but after the Amendment, the maternity leaves in India was extended. Now, it’s more than 6 months of maternity leave in India for all women working in companies with at least 10 employees. However, a woman who has two or more children is entitled to 12 weeks of pregnancy leave in India.

Legal Actions You Can Take Against Denial of Maternity Leave in India

A good HR policy will always try to implement and ensure that women employees do not have to give up their career requisites in order to fulfill their role as a mother.

After the amendment of the act for maternity law in 2017, there are some major consequences that an employer can face for refusing to provide an expecting employee
with maternity leave.

1.Maternity leave will be extended from the present three months to six months by an organization. However, an organization can revoke maternity benefits in India only in case a woman employee changes her job during that period.

2.As per the Labour Law in India, the rules for maternity leave in India supports a woman employee, where she can file a case in labor court against the employer for her dismissal or discharge on account of such absence.

3.If the employer denies maternity benefit to a female employee, the labor court can hold the employer liable to imprisonment for 3 months, fine the employer with an amount up to Rs. 5000, or both, as per the rules for maternity leave in India.

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