Pregnancy and childbirth are crucial phases in a woman’s life. To support working women during this time, the Indian government has put in place maternity leave policy that allow expecting mothers paid time off work. Over the decades, maternity leave rules in India have been refined through key regulations like the Maternity Benefit Act 1961 and the Maternity Benefit Amendment Act 2017.
This article will provide an overview of the current maternity leave policy in India – the eligibility criteria, leave duration, pay rules, the process to apply, and other provisions made for pregnant employees. With more women joining the workforce, maternity benefits and leave policies enable them to strike a balance between familial responsibilities and career growth.
Maternity Leave Policy in India
India has a comprehensive maternity leave policy that is governed by national laws and regulations. The Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 was one of the first laws to grant paid leave and other benefits to employed women during and after pregnancy. It has since been amended over the years to further improve maternity entitlements.
The initial Maternity Benefit Act of 1961 mandated 12 weeks of paid maternity leave for all women employed in factories, mines, plantations, shops and other establishments. It also prohibited employers from dismissing a pregnant woman merely on grounds of pregnancy and required them to provide nursing breaks.
Over 50 years later, the Maternity Benefit Amendment Act 2017 significantly expanded the scope and duration of paid maternity leave:
- Women are now entitled to 26 weeks of paid leave for the first two children, up from 12 weeks previously.
- For the third child, the entitlement is 12 weeks of paid leave.
- It also introduced an optional work-from-home provision after the 26-week leave period ends.
The 2017 amendment also makes it mandatory for establishments with over 50 employees to provide crèche facilities. Together, these updated regulations ensure adequate rest and support for new mothers employed in the organized sector.
Eligibility for Maternity Leave Policy
The maternity leave policy in India applies to all female employees in the organized sector, regardless of the nature of work or employment terms.
As per the Maternity Benefit Act, the following categories of working women are eligible for paid maternity leave in India:
- Employees on probation or temporary workers who have been in continuous service with the current employer for at least 80 days in the past 12 months.
- Permanent employees, whether full-time or part-time.
- Contractual employees who have served continuously for at least 240 days.
- Commissioning and adoptive mothers – women who legally adopt a child or use surrogacy services to have a child through an Assisted Reproductive Technology procedure.
- Women working in mines, factories, plantations and shops/establishments are covered under the Act.
- Eligibility is irrespective of the number of surviving children. Previous restrictions on maternity benefits for over 2 children have now been removed.
To claim maternity leave, the pregnant woman must inform her employer at least 8 weeks before the expected delivery date through a written maternity leave application. This notification period may be waived in case of emergency medical reasons.
Duration and Maternity Leave Rules
The duration and conditions around availing maternity leave policy in India are governed by the Maternity Benefit Act 1961. This section covers the key rules related to paid leave periods eligible for different categories of mothers and establishments.
The duration of paid maternity leave depends on the number of children and type of establishment as per the Maternity Benefit Act:
- For the first two children, women are entitled to 26 weeks (6 months) of paid maternity leave policy.
- For the third child, the paid leave duration is 12 weeks (3 months).
- For miscarriage or medical termination of pregnancy, the paid leave entitlement is 6 weeks.
- After the maternity leave period ends, employers of establishments with over 10 employees must allow mothers to work from home for times and periods as mutually agreed upon.
- The maximum maternity leave for a woman employee is her entitlement for the first two children. For any subsequent children, only 12 weeks of paid leave are permissible.
- Leave entitlement is applicable for living children only. It does not include stillbirths or miscarriages that occur after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
- Maternity leave can be availed in combination with company holidays or medical leave but not in continuation of other kinds of leave.
- Pregnant employees are eligible for a maximum of 8 weeks of paid leave before the expected delivery date.
Payment and Benefits During Maternity Leave
Financial security is crucial for expectant mothers during maternity leave. We will cover the regulations on wage payments, medical bonuses, and continuity of service-related benefits and increments during the paid absence period.
- Employers are required to pay the same wage rate with all related benefits that a woman was receiving immediately before proceeding on leave.
- This salary is subject to any wage increments occurring during the leave period.
- The maternity pay must be disbursed on the date when other employees receive their wages.
- Apart from salary, all service-related benefits such as accrued leaves, medical allowance etc. must be maintained during the leave duration.
- Women employees are also entitled to a medical bonus of Rs. 3,500 from their employer for pre-natal and post-natal care, as long as they do not receive this benefit from any other laws.
Thus, maternity leave policy as per the Maternity Benefit Act 1961 provides crucial income protection for working women in the period surrounding childbirth, enabling them to focus on their and their child’s health.
How to Apply for Maternity Leave?
Once a woman employee confirms her pregnancy, she must formally apply for maternity leave as per the provisions of the Maternity Benefit Act 1961. The key rules for applying are:
She must provide at least 8 weeks’ notice before the expected date of delivery. For unexpected medical reasons, this condition may be relaxed.
The maternity leave application should mention the date from which she wants her maternity leave to start. This can be up to 8 weeks before the delivery date.
It should be accompanied by a medical certificate confirming the pregnancy and the expected date of childbirth.
For adoptive or commissioning mothers, relevant documentation including the adoption/surrogacy agreement must be submitted.
If the claim meets eligibility criteria, the employer must approve it without delay and provide written sanction of the leave dates.
After childbirth, the employee should inform the employer about the date from which she will rejoin work. This date may be extended if she applies for extended maternity leave.
If returning before the end of the maternity leave period, at least 1 week’s prior intimation has to be given to the employer.
Following these rules facilitates a smooth maternity leave application process for the employer and employee.
Key Differences Between the Maternity Benefit Act of 1961 and the 2017 Amendment
The Maternity Benefit Act of 1961 laid the foundation for maternity protection in India by granting 12 weeks of paid leave to pregnant employees. After over 50 years, the Act was updated through the Maternity Benefit Amendment of 2017 to expand leave duration and introduce additional benefits:
- Leave Duration: The 1961 Act provided 12 weeks of paid maternity leave. This was increased to 26 weeks for the first two children under the 2017 amendment.
- Applicability: The original Act applied only to factories, mines, plantations, shops and other establishments. The amendment expanded coverage to all establishments employing 10 or more people.
- Adoptive Mothers: Maternity leave benefits were extended to adoptive mothers and commissioning mothers under the 2017 amendment.
- Work from Home: The option to work from home after maternity leave was introduced in 2017.
- Crèche Facility: Establishments with over 50 employees are now mandated to provide crèche services for nursing mothers.
- Miscarriage Leave: The 2017 Act granted 6 weeks of paid leave for miscarriages, which was not included in the 1961 policy.
- Employee Coverage: The amended Act removed the earlier restriction on maternity benefits for only 2 surviving children.
- Notice Period: The notice period for expecting mothers to inform employers was increased from 6 weeks to 8 weeks under the 2017 Act.
Thus, the Maternity Benefit Amendment expanded the scope, eligibility and duration of maternity leave policy substantially to promote women’s maternal health and employment rights.
What are the Rules for Pregnant Employees?
In addition, to leave benefits, Indian labour law also mandates certain facilities and protections for expecting and new mothers at the workplace. In this section, we’ll summarize the key rules that employers must follow to safeguard pregnant employees and support them through the maternity phase:
- Pregnant employees cannot be forced to undertake arduous physical work or be exposed to unhealthy work environments.
- Alternate, safe working arrangements must be provided if an existing role involves hazardous exposure.
- They are entitled to receive regular health checkups and prenatal care from company doctors/clinics.
- Nursing mothers should be given suitable rest intervals to pump and store breast milk.
- There should be no deduction of wages if a pregnant worker attends prenatal appointments during work hours.
- It is illegal for employers to dismiss or demote female staff on grounds of pregnancy or maternity leave.
- Workplace sexual harassment targeting expecting mothers also qualifies as discrimination under the law.
- In establishments with over 50 employees, the employer must provide crèche facilities where mothers can rest and feed their babies.
These provisions promote the overall well-being and job security of women during motherhood, safeguarding them from any unfair labour practices.
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Maternity protection policies in India have evolved considerably over the past few decades. The Maternity Benefit Act 1961 pioneered labour law reforms by introducing maternity leave policy and other benefits for working women. These rights were subsequently expanded under the Maternity Benefit Amendment Act 2017 to increase paid leave duration and provide work flexibility for new mothers.
India now has one of the most progressive maternity leave policy globally, with 26 weeks of paid absence allowed for the first two children. The rules aim to enable women to nourish and care for their newborns while being financially secure. If you still need more details you can checkout Act for employment of women during pregnancy.
Questions Related to This Article
What is maternity leave for government employees?
As per the Central Civil Services (Leave) Rules 1972, female government employees are entitled to 180 days or roughly 6 months of paid maternity leave. This leave can be taken up to 6 weeks before the expected delivery date.
What is the process for maternity leave application for teachers?
Teachers working in government or private schools can apply for maternity leave through a written application to the principal/head of the school. This should be submitted along with a medical certificate confirming the pregnancy, at least 1 month before availing leave.
What are the maternity leave rules in India for private companies?
Under the Maternity Benefit Act, private companies must provide 26 weeks of paid leave for the first two children. For the third child, leave is 12 weeks. Other rules on salary, notice period, work from home etc. as outlined in the Act also apply.
How does one apply for maternity leave after delivery?
An employee can apply for maternity leave after childbirth if she has not done so already. The application must be made within 6 weeks of delivery and submitted with the medical certificate of delivery along with details of the leave period required.
Is maternity leave paid in India?
Yes, under the Maternity Benefit Act, all maternity leave taken by eligible employees in private and public sector companies is required to be paid leave. Women must receive their regular salary and benefits during the leave duration.
Who is not eligible for maternity leave?
Employees working in establishments with less than 10 people, daily wage workers, self-employed women and apprentices are not eligible for paid maternity leave under Indian laws.
Do husbands get maternity leave?
There is no provision for paternity or maternity leave for fathers under Indian labour laws. Only pregnant women or new mothers are entitled to paid leave.
Is maternity leave increased to 9 months?
No, the maximum maternity leave provided in India is 6 months or 26 weeks, applicable for the first two children. For subsequent children, leave is 3 months or 12 weeks.
Can I have 12 months of maternity leave?
No, 12 months of maternity leave is not permitted in India. The maximum duration allowed is 6 months or 180 days for the first two children.
Can I take maternity leave after joining a new company?
Yes, but only if you have completed at least 80 days of continuous employment with the new company just before availing leave.
Will I get a full salary during maternity leave?
Yes, under the Maternity Benefit Act, women are entitled to receive their full salary and all benefits that were applicable just before proceeding on leave.
What are the rules for pregnant employees?
Rules include provisions for workplace accommodations, non-discrimination, crèche services, health checkups, nursing breaks, etc. to support expecting and new mothers.
Can I take maternity leave for 6 months pregnant?
Yes, pregnant employees can start their maternity leave up to 6 weeks or 42 days before the expected delivery date.
How do I calculate my maternity leave?
Maternity leave is calculated as up to 8 weeks before expected delivery + the number of weeks paid leave you are entitled to post-childbirth as per law.
Why take maternity leave early?
It allows expecting mothers to rest, take care of health needs and make preparations for the baby’s arrival. It can help manage pregnancy complications.
What is the latest maternity scheme?
The Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana is a maternity benefit scheme providing Rs. 5000 in cash to pregnant women for prenatal care.
Do husbands get maternity leave?
No, there is no provision for paternity leave or maternity leave for men under Indian laws. Only mothers are entitled.
Can I start maternity leave after the baby is born?
Yes, maternity leave can be availed after childbirth if the prior application was not made. New mothers need to inform the employer within 6 weeks of delivery in this case.