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Maternity Leave Policy in India (2023)

Let’s learn more about the eligibility criteria, why it is essential for women, the rules of the Leave Policy, HR’s role in granting you leave, and more.

  • 24 Apr 2023
  • 3 min read

Working women in India face numerous challenges. Maternity leave plays a vital role in ensuring the overall well-being of the mother and newborn child and allows women to adjust to their new role as mothers.

Maternity benefits are necessary to protect women’s economic rights, ensure job security, and support their social function of childbearing and rearing. The Indian Maternity Benefit Act of 1961 provides comprehensive maternity benefits, including paid leave, medical bonuses, and nursing breaks. Additionally, having adequate health insurance coverage is crucial for working women to address any medical expenses related to maternity.

Let’s learn more about the eligibility criteria, why it is essential for women, the rules of the Leave Policy, HR’s role in granting you leave, and more.

Maternity Leave Eligibility in India

  • Eligibility as per maternity leave rules requires at least 80 days of work with the employer in the 12 months prior to the expected delivery date
  • Pregnant, adopting, or women who experience miscarriages are eligible for maternity leave
  • Surrogate or commissioning mothers can take up to 26 weeks of maternity leave from the day the newborn is handed over to the adoptive parents
  • The Act applies to both public and private sector women employees
  • Full salary is guaranteed during the maternity leave period
  • Duration of six months for first and second-time mothers and three months for subsequent children
  • Childcare provisions and the right to return to the previous position are provided
  • Additional leave days granted for new mothers who require more recovery time
  • Pregnant employees entitled to certain workplace amenities, such as
  • hygienic restrooms
  • comfortable seating and working arrangements
  • safe drinking water

Maternity Leave Benefits in India

  • The Maternity Benefit Act in India provides maternity benefits such as paid leave for women employees who need to fulfil their maternal obligations and duties
  • For first and second-time mothers, the leave is for 6 months or 26 weeks, while every subsequent child entitles the mother to 3 months or 12 weeks of paid maternity leave
  • Many companies offer maternity coverage to their employees under their group health insurance policies. However, that depends on the insurance provider that the company is buying from.
  • The Act also ensures the holistic well-being of mothers and their babies by providing childcare provisions
  • Employers cannot fire or dismiss women employees solely because they are pregnant, in labour, or recuperating post-childbirth
  • The Act mandates that pregnant women have access to amenities, such as hygienic restrooms, comfortable seating, and safe drinking water in their workplace
  • The Act entitles pregnant women to additional leave days if they are unable to return to work after the maternity leave period
  • The payment for maternity leave is at the rate of the average daily wage for the period of absence, with an additional medical bonus of Rs 3500 and a benefit of a minimum amount of Rs 6000 under the National Food Security Act 2013
  • Employers must not give pregnant employees difficult tasks or long working hours ten weeks before delivery to ensure the health and safety of both the mother and child.
  • HR departments can incorporate measures to support pregnant employees, including:
  • flexible working arrangements
  • counselling services
  • wellness programs

Also read:

Understanding the Maternity Benefit Act 1961

The Act mandates that women who have worked for an organisation for at least eighty days are entitled to maternity benefits, including paid leave, a medical bonus, and a nursing break. Moreover, the Act prohibits employers from firing or dismissing pregnant women or changing the terms of their employment, which could be detrimental to them.

The Act mandates twelve weeks of maternity leave, of which a woman employee can take no more than six weeks before the due date. Women are entitled to remuneration during their maternity leave at the average daily salary rate. Additionally, every woman is entitled to maternity benefits and a medical bonus. The employer or organisation is liable for paying all debts, along with maternity benefits, to the woman employee’s legal representative or nominee in the unfortunate event of her demise.

The Maternity Benefit Act of 1961 is a significant improvement over the previous rudimentary law from 1928, providing women with comprehensive maternity benefits and protecting their job security during and after pregnancy.

Importance of Maternity Leave in India

In the past, women often got fired if they needed maternity leave or if their pregnancy interfered with their work performance. Discrimination resulting from women's biological role in childbearing is a significant problem faced by women in the economic sphere.

  • Maternity benefits are needed to protect working women's rights to remain self-reliant and economically independent
  • Protect the economic rights of women and curb discrimination
  • Women constitute almost half of society and must be treated with dignity and provided with all entitled facilities, regardless of duties, vocation, or workplace
  • Maternity benefits are required to allow women workforce to carry on their social responsibilities of childbearing and raising without unnecessary strain on their fitness and loss of pay
  • Traditional gender ideologies and assumptions still exist, and maternity benefits provision is necessary for women to continue working
  • The objective of the Act is to protect the dignity of motherhood and the birth of a baby by providing for the woman and her child's full and healthy maintenance when she is not working
  • Maternity benefits are necessary to eliminate the hardships faced by women workers during pregnancy and allow them to balance work and family goals without undue strain

Maternity Leave Policy Rules in India

  • The Maternity Benefit (Amended) Act 2017 in India provides full compensation to women employees during their maternity leave
  • Compensation via the maternity leave policy is calculated based on their salary or daily wages in the three months before their maternity leave request
  • A minimum of 80 days of work at their workplace in the 12 months before their delivery or adoption date is required
  • Depending on whether the woman is expecting her first or subsequent child, she can take up to a maximum of 26 weeks off for her maternity leave, with up to 8 weeks off before delivery
  • Maternity leave is payable, and the amount payable to the mother is equal to the rate of average daily wage for the period of her actual absence
  • Various statutes as the following prescribe different procedures and compliances for employers while dealing with the maternity health of their employees, such as:
  • Employer State Insurance Act, 1948
  • the Maternity Benefit (Mines and Circus) Rules, 1963
  • the Central Civil Service Rules, 1972
  • the Mines Act, 1952
  • the Factory Act, 1948

HR Maternity Leave Policy in India

  • The HR Maternity Leave Policy in India is based on the Maternity Benefit Act of 1961
  • First-time mothers or mothers of up to two children can take six months or 26 weeks of maternity leave
  • For subsequent children, mothers can avail of a 12-week or three-month maternity leave that is fully paid for by their employer
  • Female employees in India must have worked for at least 80 days in their workplace in the year prior to their delivery or adoption date to be eligible for maternity leave
  • Women can take maternity leave within six months of the delivery date, but there is no specific date for starting it
  • The Maternity Benefit Act of 1961 protects pregnant or postpartum women from discrimination and ensures they receive their full salary while on leave
  • Female employees on maternity leave in India can also receive standard employee benefits
  • The latest amendments to the Maternity Benefit Act were made in 2017, increasing paid maternity leave from 12 to 26 weeks, extending prenatal leave, and granting maternity leave for adoptive and surrogate mothers

Maternity Leave Challenges for Employers

  • Companies without HR policies or contingency plans may suffer from strain on resources and decreased productivity
  • Retaining top talent may be difficult for companies without supportive maternity leave policies
  • Uneven distribution of work and resentment among non-eligible employees can impact the morale
  • Employers in India are apprehensive about recruiting female employees due to additional costs
  • Some women are unable to avail of maternity leave due to employer unwillingness to bear the entire cost
  • The government should provide support to employers to cover part of the expenses associated with maternity leave
  • SMEs and start-ups may hesitate to hire female employees if the government does not share the costs
  • The Maternity Benefit Act places the financial burden solely on employers
  • The government proposed the Maternity Leave Incentive Scheme, 2018 to assist employers in providing maternity benefits
  • Employers may face the issue of women abusing the Act by leaving their jobs after the benefit period ends

FAQs on Maternity Leave Policy in India

1. How long is paid maternity leave in India?

The Indian Maternity Benefit Act of 1961 stipulates that new mothers are entitled to take six months or 26 weeks of paid leave for their first two children. For each subsequent child, the mother can take three months or 12 weeks of leave, which is also fully paid for by the employer.
This law prohibits employers from discriminating against or terminating the employment of pregnant employees or those who have recently given birth. The Act also extends the same benefits to commissioning, and surrogate mothers, who are eligible for the entire maternity leave salary for up to 180 days or 26 weeks.
On the other hand, Adoptive mothers are entitled to 12 weeks of leave, starting from the day they adopt a child under three months old.

2. Is maternity leave fully paid in India?

In India, as per the Indian Maternity Benefit Act 1961, employers must pay their female employees their full salary during maternity leave. This Act prohibits any form of discrimination or hiring practices based on an employee's pregnancy or childbirth status. Employers may also provide additional maternity benefits or leave days based on the employment contract or applicable laws.
The employer is required to pay the female employee for a period that begins on the day of delivery and lasts for six weeks, including the delivery day.
However, an employee must have worked for the employer for at least 80 days in the 12 months prior to delivery to be eligible for these benefits.

3. Can I take maternity leave at 6 months pregnant?

There is no specific date when a female employee can take maternity leave in India. However, under the Maternity Benefit Act, a woman employee is entitled to maternity leave provided she has been employed in the organisation for eighty days during the past twelve months.

In 2015, the Sixth Central Pay Commission recommended that women can extend the period of maternity leave to six months for Central Government employees.
This recommendation got implemented in accordance with guidelines issued by the World Health Organisation and the Indian Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

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