Understanding Maternity Benefits Act, 1961
The main object of the act is to provide security to the dignity of motherhood by providing full and healthy benefit for the child and the mother. Keeping this object in mind the Maternity Benefits Act, 1961 was brought into effect on December 21, 1961 after being passed by both the houses and receiving assent of the President. The Act applies to every factory, mine or plantation (including those belonging to government), and to every shop or establishment wherein, 10 or more people are employed. There are two types of benefits provided under this Act, namely cash and non-cash benefits. Contravention of this Act incurs a minimum prison sentence of three months, with a maximum of one year. A fine of INR 2000 – INR 5000 may also be imposed. However, the Act does not apply to any such factory/ other establishment to which the provisions of the Employees’ State Insurance Act are applicable for the time being.
AMENDMENT TO THE ACT
The Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Bill, 2016 was introduced in Rajya Sabha on August 11, 2016 by the Minister of Labour and Employment, Mr. Bandaru Dattatreya which received the President’s assent on March 27, 2017. The Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act, 2017 brought out certain changes like increasing the duration of maternity leave, introduction of provision of maternity leaves in case of adoption etc. The key changes brought by the amendment are as below;
|PAID MATERNITY LEAVE||SECTION 5 (3) (effective April 01, 2017)||12 weeks (of which not more than 6 weeks shall precede the date of expected delivery)||26 weeks (of which not more than 8 weeks shall precede the date of expected delivery). However, a woman with two or more children will be entitled to 12 weeks of maternity leave.|
|PAID MATERNITY LEAVE FOR ADOPTIVE AND COMMISSIONING MOTHERS||SECTION 5 (4) (effective April 01, 2017)||NA||A woman who legally adopts a child below the age of three months or a commissioning mother shall be entitled to maternity benefit for a period of twelve weeks from the date the child is handed over to the adopting mother or the commissioning mother, as the case may be.|
|REQUIREMENT OF CRECHES FACILITY||SECTION 11 (A) (effective July 01, 2017 )||30 or more female employees (Under Factories Act, 1948)||50 or more employees. Women employees would be permitted to visit the crèche 4 times during the day.|
|EMPLOYEE AWARENESS||SECTION 11 (A) (effective April 01, 2017)||NA||A woman employee shall be informed of all benefits that would be available to her under the Act, at the time of her appointment. Such information must be given in writing and electronically.|
|WORK FROM HOME||SECTION 5 (5) (effective April 01, 2017)||NA||Work from home facility may be provided to female employee after availing of the maternity benefits, if nature of work so permits, on such conditions as mutually agreed between the employer and the female employee.|
It is pertinent to note 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.
Also, 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.
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