The Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 – Brief Notes

The main object of the Act is to maintain the health of the mother and the child when the mother is not working. It provides social security. Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 was amended in 2017 and the period of maternity leave was increased from 12 weeks to 26 weeks for two surviving children. 12 weeks for more than two children and also in case of ‘commissioning mother’ and ‘adopted mother’.

It is applicable in establishments where 10 or more people are employed. According to the amendment, providing creche facility is mandatory where 50 or more people are employed in an establishment. 

[Suggested Read: Right of Legal Aid in India – 11 Provisions You Must Know]

Maternity benefit is payable to women who have worked in the establishment for a period not less than 80 days in the 12 months immediately preceding the date of her expected delivery. She will be paid at the rate of average daily wage which means the period of 3 calendar months preceding the date of her actual absence or minimum wage fixed or revised, or Rs.10 whichever is higher.  

  • The employer is mandated by law to provide all details about the maternity benefits available to the female employee at the time of her joining. 
  • The Act provides that no pregnant employee is supposed to be assigned any difficult work that might hurt her or the child for the 10 weeks before the delivery date. 
  • The Act provides that Some establishments may also give work from home facilities to women employees if the nature of work makes it possible. 
  • Under the amendment to the Act in 2017, the prenatal leave has been extended from 6 weeks to 8 weeks and 18 weeks post birth. However, you can also take all 26 weeks if leave after birth. 
  • An employee cannot be dismissed for taking the benefit of maternity leave and neither can she be served a termination notice that is bound to expire before the leave is over.  Even if dismissed, she is entitled to medical bonus and maternity benefit while pregnant unless the dismissal is for gross misconduct.

[Suggested Read: Implementation Failure of Legal Aid Services in India]