Feb 14, 2024

Maternity Leave in India 2024: Eligibility and Benefits

Discover the hurdles employers face with maternity leave in India and how they navigate staffing, financial, and legal challenges.

Maternity Leave in India 2024: Eligibility and Benefits

Know about Maternity Leave in India 2024

Maternity leave in India is a crucial aspect of employment legislation designed to support and protect the rights of women during pregnancy and childbirth. Ensuring the well-being of both mother and child, maternity leave policies in India have evolved over the years to provide adequate time off work, allowing women to recover from childbirth, bond with their newborns, and attend to their caregiving responsibilities. 

The maternity leave legal framework in India is primarily outlined in the Maternity Benefit Act of 1961, which has seen amendments over time to accommodate changing societal norms and requirements. In recent years, there has been a growing recognition of the importance of maternity leave not only for the health and welfare of mothers and infants but also for promoting gender equality in the workforce. This has led to efforts to enhance the scope and duration of maternity leave provisions, aligning them more closely with international standards and best practices. 

As a result, maternity leave in India serves as a vital component of social protection measures, contributing to the overall well-being of families and the advancement of women in the workforce.

Eligibility Criteria under the Maternity Benefit Act

1. Employment Duration Requirement:

To be eligible, women must meet certain criteria. One crucial requirement for maternity leave in India is that the woman must have been employed by the same employer for a minimum period of 80 days in the 12 months immediately preceding her expected date of delivery. 

This stipulation ensures that women who have actively contributed to the workforce are entitled to maternity leave and related benefits. By establishing this duration of employment prerequisite, the Act aims to protect the rights of women who have been engaged in gainful employment, ensuring they receive support during pregnancy and childbirth.

2. Applicability to All Establishments:

Another key aspect of eligibility under the Act pertains to the scope of its applicability. The Act extends its provisions to all types of establishments with atleast 10 employees, including factories, mines, plantations, shops, and other establishments, regardless of their size or nature of operations. 

This inclusivity ensures that women working across various sectors and industries have access to maternity benefits mandated by the legislation. By covering a wide range of establishments, the Act aims to provide equal opportunities for pregnant women to avail themselves of essential support and protection in the workplace, irrespective of their employer's characteristics.

3. Ensuring Women's Well-being:

Ultimately, the eligibility criteria outlined in the Act are designed to prioritize the health and well-being of pregnant women in the workforce. By setting specific employment duration requirements and applying universally to all establishments, maternity leave policy ensures that women receive adequate support during the crucial period of pregnancy and childbirth. 

These eligibility criteria aim to strike a balance between professional responsibilities and maternal duties, acknowledging the importance of supporting women in maintaining their health and fulfilling their roles as mothers while remaining active participants in the workforce.

Employee Benefits of Maternity Leave: Supporting Women's Well-being

1. Extended Paid Leave Duration:

There is provision for an extended duration of paid maternity leave in India. This benefit encompasses a total leave period of up to twenty-six weeks, with eight weeks allocated prior to the expected delivery date and eighteen weeks post-delivery. 

This extended duration enables pregnant women to adequately prepare for childbirth, recover from the physical demands of labor, and nurture their newborns during the crucial early months of infancy. By providing paid leave, policy on maternity leave in India ensures that women do not face financial strain while taking time off from work, thus promoting their overall well-being and that of their families.

2. Financial Stability and Security:

Employers need to provide maternity leave benefits in the form of paid leave at the average daily wage rate for the duration of the leave period. This provision offers financial stability to expecting mothers, alleviating concerns about loss of income during their absence from work. 

By receiving their regular wages during maternity leave, women can focus on their health, childbirth, and caring for their newborns without the added stress of financial insecurity. This aspect of the maternity leave benefits not only supports the immediate needs of the mother and child but also contributes to long-term financial security for the family.

3. Health and Wellness Support:

In addition to the paid leave and financial benefits, the Act emphasizes importance of supporting women's health and wellness during the maternity period. Women availing maternity leave are entitled to receive medical bonuses and nursing breaks during the workday to facilitate breastfeeding their infants. 

This provision promotes the health and well-being of both mother and child by encouraging breastfeeding, which offers numerous health benefits to newborns and contributes to the bonding between mother and baby. By prioritizing the health and wellness of pregnant and nursing mothers, the Act ensures that women can fulfill their maternal responsibilities while maintaining their physical and emotional well-being.

Benefits and Eligibility of Maternity Leave in India: Summary

Maternity Leave Eligibility
Employed women working in establishments with a minimum of 10 employees
Women who have worked for the same employer for a minimum of 80 days in the 12 months preceding delivery
Applies to all types of establishments, including factories, mines, plantations, and shops
Pregnant women, including adoptive and commissioning mothers
Coverage extends to all employees, regardless of designation or nature of work
Maternity Leave Benefits
Extended paid leave up to 26 weeks
Eight weeks of leave before expected delivery date
Eighteen weeks of leave post-delivery
Paid leave at average daily wage rate
Medical bonuses and nursing breaks for breastfeeding
Creche facilities for establishments with 50+ employees

Know more about how an employer of record in India can help you onboard remote team members while ensuring legal and regulatory compliance for maternity leave in India.

Understanding the Maternity Benefit Act 1961

The Maternity Benefit Act of 1961 is a fundamental piece of legislation in India that outlines various provisions aimed at safeguarding the rights of pregnant women and ensuring their well-being during childbirth and postpartum. This act mandates that every woman employed in an organization with a minimum of ten employees is entitled to maternity leave of up to twenty-six weeks, which includes eight weeks of leave before the expected delivery date (or as medically certified) and eighteen weeks of leave post-delivery.

Progressive amendments to the Act in 2017:

In 2017, the Maternity Benefit Act underwent a significant amendment aimed at further enhancing the protection and support provided to working women during the crucial period of maternity. This amendment marked a progressive step forward in aligning India's maternity leave policies with international standards and addressing the evolving needs of working mothers. 

Extension of maternity leave from 12 weeks to 26 weeks:

One of the most notable changes introduced by the 2017 amendment was the extension of maternity leave from twelve weeks to twenty-six weeks, doubling the duration of leave provided to new mothers. This extension was particularly beneficial in facilitating better maternal health, fostering early bonding between mother and child, and supporting breastfeeding practices, all of which are crucial for the overall well-being of both mother and infant. 

Provision of Creche Service:

Additionally, the amendment made it mandatory for establishments with fifty or more employees to provide creche facilities within a prescribed distance, allowing working mothers to attend to their childcare needs while at work conveniently. 

Inclusion of Adoptive Mothers:

Furthermore, the amendment recognized the rights of adoptive and commissioning mothers by granting them maternity leave of twelve weeks from the date of adoption or surrogacy. These amendments represented a significant stride towards gender equality in the workforce, acknowledging the importance of supporting women's participation in employment while fulfilling their roles as mothers. 

Overall, the 2017 amendment to the Maternity Benefit Act marked a progressive shift towards more inclusive and supportive policies for working mothers in India.

Challenges of policy on Maternal Leave in India

1. Managing Staffing Challenges:

One big issue for employers is handling the workload when employees take maternity leave. When key team members are away, it can disrupt the flow of work, especially in smaller businesses. Employers might need to find temporary workers or shuffle tasks around to keep things running smoothly. This can be tricky and sometimes costly, especially if they need to hire temporary help.

2. Dealing with Costs:

Providing paid maternity leave can be tough on a company's finances, especially for small businesses. While it's important to support employees during this time, paying for their leave and any extra help needed can strain the budget. It's a balancing act between supporting employees and keeping the business financially stable.

3. Keeping Things Running Smoothly:

When someone goes on maternity leave, it can disrupt the team's rhythm, especially in industries where it's hard to find skilled workers. Employers need to make sure work keeps going without a hitch. This means planning ahead and making sure everyone knows what to do when someone is on leave, so projects stay on track.

4. Following the Rules:

Employers have to follow the law when it comes to maternity leave, but the rules can be confusing. They need to stay updated on any changes and make sure they're giving employees the time off and benefits they're entitled to. Not following the rules can lead to legal trouble and hurt the company's reputation. So, it's important for employers to have clear policies in place and make sure everyone follows them.

To know more about how to design a policy on maternity leave for remote teams in India, talk to our expert.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is maternity leave a paid leave in India?

Yes, maternity leave is a paid leave in India. The Maternity Benefit Act mandates that eligible employees are entitled to receive their regular salary during the maternity leave period.

How many months is maternity leave in India?

Maternity leave in India is typically for a total duration of twenty-six weeks, which is approximately six and a half months. This includes eight weeks of leave before the expected delivery date and eighteen weeks of leave post-delivery.

Will I get a salary during maternity leave?

Yes, employees in India are entitled to receive their regular salary during maternity leave. The Maternity Benefit Act requires employers to provide paid leave at the average daily wage rate for the duration of the maternity leave period.

When does maternity leave start?

Maternity leave in India typically starts before the expected delivery date, allowing expectant mothers to take time off to prepare for childbirth and attend medical appointments. The exact start date may vary depending on individual circumstances and medical advice.

Are employees eligible for employee benefits during maternity leave?

Yes, employees remain eligible for employee benefits during maternity leave as per the provisions of the Maternity Benefit Act. This includes medical bonuses, nursing breaks for breastfeeding, and any other benefits provided by the employer as part of their regular employment package.

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