Everything you need to know: The Maternity Benefit Act,1961

September 27, 2021
Everything you need know The Maternity Benefit Act,1961

Organizations conduct their business activities within an extremely competitive marketplace and operate and carry out their activities within a pre-defined framework. Adherence to that framework is statutory compliance. 

Organizations also have a responsibility to ensure that the safety and well-being of their employees are taken care of, given that they are crucial to any organization’s status, effectiveness, and public image. Ensuring that all compliances are followed falls under the sphere of compliance management. 

One section of employees that need to be taken care of is women in the workplace. One of the most important acts that organizations have to be compliant with is the Maternity Benefit Act.

The Maternity Benefit Act

Passed in 1961 and amended in 2017, this act regulates the safety, well-being, and employment of women and expecting mothers who are part of an organization or hired by way of an agency within an establishment for a certain time before and after the birth of their child.

It also provides maternity benefits along with certain amenities. This act extends across India and applies to all sectors and workplaces. The following are the conditions of employment for women, which are prohibited for a certain period. This essentially entails that companies have to adhere to labour law compliance as well, given that the reach of this act stretches across multiple spheres.

Women cannot work in an organization for:

  • A period of one month immediately preceding six weeks before their expected delivery date.
  • An employer with prior knowledge of an employee’s pregnancy shall not employ them in any establishment. The period is during the six weeks immediately following the day of their delivery or their miscarriage.

Maternity Benefits

  • According to the provisions of this act, every woman shall be entitled to, and their employers shall be liable for, the payment of maternity benefits. Benefits will be paid to the employees at the average daily wage rate for the period of her actual absence. This is immediately before and including the day of their delivery and immediately following that day for six weeks.
  • The other benefits covered under this act include cash allowances that include dearness and house rent allowance, incentive bonus, and money value of the concessional supply of food grains and other articles.
  • However, the maternity act does not cover benefits other than incentive bonuses, overtime earnings or fines, gratuity payable on the termination of service contributions to the pension scheme, and provident fund.

Other Considerations

  • If a woman dies during and is entitled to benefits under this act and has not received them, the employer is obliged to pay the amount to a nominee of the woman.
  • Upon return to duty after delivery till the child completes 15 months, the new mother shall be allowed two breaks daily during work to nurse their child.

The 2017 Amendment

  • The amendment saw an increase in the duration of paid maternity leave for women from the existing period of 12 weeks to 26 weeks.
  • Maternity leaves of 12 weeks to be available to mothers adopting a child and biological mothers. Introduction of a provision allowing women to “work from home” after the 26-week leave. Women employees can reach an agreement with their employer to continue doing so.
  • crèche facility is mandatory for every establishment employing 50 or more employees. And women employees are permitted to visit the crèche 4 times during the day.
  • It is mandatory for employers to educate women about the maternity benefits available to them at the time of their appointment.

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