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The Maternity Benefit Act, 1961
The Maternity Benefit Act, 1961

Maternity Act 1961 makes provisions to protect the dignity of Motherhood by giving complete and healthy care to women and her child when she is unable to perform her duty due to a health condition, Maternity Leave and benefit. 

Maternity Act 1961: Provides women, assurance that her rights will be looked after while she is at home to take care of her child.

Applicability: The Act extends to the whole of India. Every store or establishment wherein 10 or more persons are employed on any day preceding 12 months and to every factory, mine or plantation (including those belonging to Government).

Eligible for Maternity Benefit: A woman must be working in the establishment for a minimum period of 80 days in 12 months before the date of delivery — any women who earn less than Rs. 15,000/-, her employer may offer ESI (Employees State Insurance) scheme and she will not be eligible for benefit under the Maternity Benefit Act but will receive the maternity benefit under the ESI scheme.

Duties of Employee for Maternity Benefit: Any women expecting a child may ask the employer to give her light work ten weeks before the expected delivery date. The employer must be informed seven weeks before her delivery date about the leave period; also she must name the person to whom the payment will be made in case she cannot take herself.

Municipal Corporation Of Delhi vs Female Workers (2000) SCC 224: A Union of Female Workers who were not on regular rolls, but was treated as temporary workers and was employed on Muster roll, claimed that they should also get maternity benefit like other regular workers. Court held that the provisions of the Act entitle maternity leave not only to those in regular employment but also to women on a casual basis or muster roll basis on daily wages and, is wholly in on the lines of the Directive Principles of State Policy vide Articles 19, 42 and 43 of the Constitution of India.

Cash Benefits: 84 Days Leave with pay before/after delivery. A medical bonus of Rs. 3,500/- Take the payment for six weeks after/before childbirth. Additional leaves with pay, up to one month subject in case of illness subject to proof for the same. Six weeks leave with the average salary in case of miscarriage. Paid leave with wages of maternity benefit for a period of 2 weeks in case of tubectomy operation 

Non Cash Benefits:
- Light work for about ten weeks (6 weeks plus one month) before delivery. 
- Two Nursing breaks of 15 Minutes till the child becomes of 15 months.
- No women can be discharged or dismissed during maternity leave.
- Pregnant women who were discharged or dismissed may still claim maternity benefit from an employer.

Paid Maternity Leave Increased: The Amended Act has increased the duration of paid maternity leave available for women employees from the earlier existing 12 weeks to 26 weeks. This benefit could be availed by expecting women for a period extending up to a maximum eight weeks before the expected date of delivery, and the remaining can availed after the birth of the child. And for women who are having two children and expecting after them, then the duration of paid maternity leave will be 12 weeks (i.e., six weeks before and six weeks after the delivery).

Maternity leave for commissioning and adoptive women: Leave of 12 weeks will be available to mothers adopting a child below the age of 3 months from the date of adoption; in case of “commissioning mothers.” the same provisions have been made.

Option to Work from Home: The amended Act has also introduced a provision relating to "work from home" for women; this can be utilised after the 26 weeks' leave. Women employees may be able to take this benefit on the terms that are mutually agreed with the employer depending upon the nature of work.

Creche facility: The Act makes creche facility mandatory for every establishment which is employing 50 or more. Women employees shall be permitted to visit the creche four times during the day which includes rest intervals.
It is mandatory for employers to educate women about the maternity benefits available to them at the time of their appointment.

Legal Obligation under Maternity Act: No employer can unknowingly employ a woman in the establishment for six weeks following the date of delivery or date of miscarriage. No woman must work in any establishment during the six weeks immediately the day following her delivery. It is unlawful for her employer to discharge or dismiss her on account of such absence. In case of any Gross misconduct, the employer in writing can communicate about depriving such benefit. Within 60 days from the date of deprivation of maternity benefit, any Women can appeal to the authority prescribed by law.

Duties and Penalty for Employer: Record Management: Every employer needs to prepare records or registers. The penalty for Contravention of Act is Imprisonment with a minimum period of 3 months to maximum 01 years and Fine from Rs.2000 to Rs. 5000.

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