With a view to regulate the employment of women for a certain period, before and after childbirth and to provide maternity benefits as well as certain other benefits, the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 is enacted.
Section 2 of the Act deals with the application of the Act. Establishments such as factory, mine, plantation, establishments where persons are employed for exhibition of equestrian, acrobatic and other performances and shops or establishments within the meaning of any law in relation to shops and establishments where 10 or more persons are employed are covered by the provisions of this Act.
Section 4 of the Act says that an employer shall not knowingly employ a woman during six weeks following the date of delivery, miscarriage or medical termination of pregnancy. Likewise, concerned shall not work during above period also.
During the period of one month immediately preceding the period of six weeks before the date of expected delivery or during six weeks preceding the date of delivery, upon a request in this regard submitted by the pregnant woman, no pregnant woman shall be required to do any works of arduous nature or works involving long hours of standing. this is intended to prevent such works to interfere with the pregnancy or the normal development of foetus, miscarriage or adversely affect her health.
Section 6 says that a woman will be eligible to receive maternity benefit if she has worked for not less than 80 days in twelve months preceding the date of expected delivery. The maximum eligible period for maternity benefit is 26 weeks. A woman having two or more than two surviving children is eligible to maternity benefit for the extent of 12 weeks only.
Section 8 obligates the employer to provide pre-natal confinement and post-natal care free of charge.
Section 9 provides for miscarriage or medical termination of pregnancy. A woman can claim on production of proof maternity benefit for six weeks following miscarriage or termination of pregnancy.
Section 10 provides for leave with wages for one month for illness arising out of pregnancy, delivery, premature birth of child, miscarriage, medical termination of pregnancy tubectomy operation.
Section 11 provides for two nursing breaks. When a woman delivered a child returns to duty, she will be eligible to two breaks in addition to normal intervals of rest for nursing the child.
Section 12 obligates the employer not to dismiss or discharge a woman during her pregnancy so as to deprive her maternity benefits. For gross misconducts such a protection is not there.
Section 18 deals with forfeiture of maternity benefits. If a woman works in an establishment, after she has been permitted by her employer to absent herself availing maternity benefit, she shall forfeit her claim to the maternity benefit for such period.
Section 21 provides for a penalty for contravention of the provisions of the Act by the employer.
These are the highlights of the Maternity Benefits Act, 1961.