The Maternity Benefit Act was passed to regulate the employment of women in certain establishments for certain periods before and after child-birth and also to provide for Maternity Benefit and certain other benefits. This Act was enacted on the basis of ARTICLE 39(e) and ARTICLE 39(f) of the CONSTITUTION OF INDIA, 1950 where it was clearly stated under PART-V DIRECTIVE PRINCIPLES OF STATE POLICY “The state shall, in particular, direct its policy towards securing the health and strength of the workers, men and women”.
This Act is solely devoted to working women making provisions to provide different kinds of benefits to female-wage earner. Legislation for maternity benefits was enacted in almost all the States of India prior to the present Maternity Benefit Act, 1961. These Acts were Assam Maternity Benefit Act, 1944, The Bihar Maternity Benefit Act, 1947 and The Bombay Maternity Benefit Act, 1929 .THE CENTRAL LEGISLATIONS had passed with the provisions of MATERNITY BENEFIT like THE MINES MATERNITY BENEFIT ACT, 1941 THE PLANTATION LABOUR ACT, 1951, etc. However the scope of the Acts varied in terms of qualifying conditions for payment, the amount and therefore the rate of maternity benefits, etc. With a view to scale back the disparities referring to maternity protection under the assorted Acts, the Govt of India enacted in 1961, a new Act called the Maternity Benefit Act 1961. It had been amended quite extensively in 1970, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1976, 1988, and 1995.
The purpose of this Act is to regulate the employment of women in certain establishments for certain period and after child-birth and provide for maternity benefits and other benefits. It is based on social justice.
In order to reduce the disparities relating to maternity provisions under various states and central Acts; the Central Government enacted a new act named MATERNITY BENEFIT ACT, 1961. The state governments have empowered to extend all the provisions of this Act to any other establishment or class of establishment, industries, commerce, agricultural or otherwise with the approval of the central government by giving not less than two months notice of its intention of so doing. This act also intended to achieve the object of doing social justice to women workers. The Maternity Benefit Act, 1961, protects the female employee during the time of maternity and entitles them to a full paid absence from work to require take care of the kid. The amendments in 2016 seeks to extend maternity leave period to 26 weeks all told establishments, including private sector.
Employment Of, Or Work By Women Prohibited During Certain Periods. Section 4
(1) No employer shall knowingly employ a woman in any establishment during the six weeks immediately following the day of her delivery, [miscarriage or medical termination of pregnancy].
(2) No woman shall work in any establishment during the six weeks immediately following the day of her delivery [miscarriage or medical termination of pregnancy].
(3) Without prejudice to the provisions of section 6, no pregnant woman shall, on a request being made by her in this behalf, be required by her employer to do during the period specified in sub-section (4) any work which is of an arduous nature or which involves long hours of standing, or which in any way is likely to interfere with her pregnancy or the normal development of the fetus, or is likely to cause her miscarriage or otherwise to adversely affect her health.
(4) The period referred to in sub-section (3) shall be-
(a) the period of one month immediately preceding the period of six weeks, before the date of her expected delivery;
(b) any period during the said period of six weeks for which the pregnant woman does not avail of leave of absence under section 6.
Under Section 5, every women is entitled for Maternity Benefit by his/her employer and the payment at the rate of average daily wages for the periodof her actual absence. Woman who has worked in any establishment for a period not less than 80 days in 12 months immediately preceding the date of her expected delivery date.
What is maternity benefit?
Every woman shall be entitled to, and her employer shall be accountable forthe payment of maternity benefit, which is that the amount payable to her at the rate of average of daily wage for the amount of her actual absence.
Period of benefit
As per Section 3(h) and Section 5(1) ‘Maternity benefit’ is a right of a woman and a duty of her employer wherein the woman is entitled for the payment of maternity benefit at the rate of the average daily wage for a specific period before and after the delivery of the child.
As per Section 5 of the Act, the maximum period for which the benefit under this Act
can be availed is a period of twelve weeks. This twelve week can be divided into two six weeks of which one can be availed prior and up to the date of delivery and the other can be availed after the date of the delivery.
In case, the mother dies before the delivery then the benefit will be payable up to the date of her death. In case the mother dies during the delivery or after delivering the child, but within six weeks, the employer will be liable to pay the benefit for the whole six weeks. But, if the child also dies along with the mother within the aforementioned period then the benefit will be payable till the death of the child.
There are certain conditions that need to be fulfilled in order to claim maternity benefit and they are as follows:
- The woman must have been working in the establishment for a minimum period of one hundred and sixty days in the twelve months immediately preceding the date of her expected delivery.
- The woman will have to give notice in writing to the employer under Section 6 of the Act stating a nominee and the date from which she will be absent, which can’t be a date earlier than six weeks of the expected delivery date.
- Under Section 8 of the Act, the woman will also be entitled to a medical bonus of Two Thousand Five Hundred rupees in case the employer is not providing any pre-natal confinement or post-natal care.
- Section 10 of the Act gives an additional leave of one month in case the woman suffers from any illness arising out of pregnancy, delivery, premature birth of child or miscarriage. She will be entitled to this leave after providing proof for the same.
- Section 11 of the Act; also provide two breaks during the course of her daily work for nursing the child for a period of fifteen months.
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