The Ministry of Labour and Employment (hereinafter referred to as the “Ministry”) vide notification No. S-36012/03/2015-SS-I dated April 12, 2017 has clarified queries raised with regard to The Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act, 2017(hereinafter referred to as the “Amendment Act”).
Certain provisions of the Amendment Act came into force with effect from April 1, 2017. Such provisions include extension of maternity leave to 26 weeks, work from home for nursing mothers, provision of 12 weeks maternity benefit for commissioning and adoptive mothers. However, a woman having two or more than two surviving children can avail maternity leave of 12 weeks, of which 6 weeks shall precede the date of expected delivery. It is pertinent to note that the provision relating to compulsory establishment of crèche in an establishment with 50 or more working employees shall come into effect with effect from July 1, 2017.
Certain queries were raised before the Ministry about the applicability of the Amendment Act to contractual women employees and women in unorganized sector, applicability on mothers who have already availed maternity leave and dismissal of women employees due to pregnancy.
The Ministry has clarified that women employed in any capacity, directly or through any agency, both in organized and unorganized sectors are covered under the ambit of the Act.
The Ministry has stated that women who had already availed 12 weeks of maternity benefit before April 1, 2017 cannot extend their leave to 26 weeks. However, women who are under maternity leave as on April 1, 2017 can enhance their leave to 26 weeks, subject to the proviso to section 5 (3) in the Amendment Act.
It is also that stated an employer who dismisses a women employee during pregnancy can be punished under section 21 of The Maternity Benefit Act, 1961.
In view of the above, the Ministry has instructed the Labour departments of all States/Union territories to circulate these clarifications to create awareness among pregnant women.
 Such employer shall punished with imprisonment which shall not be less than 3 months but which may extend to one year and with fine which shall not be less than INR 2000 but which may extend to INR 5000.