Maternity Leave in India

  • Author :
  • TATA AIG Team
  • Published on :
  • 12/03/2024

Maternity leave from work is crucial for ensuring job security and protecting the economic rights of the female workforce. It is a much-needed facility provided by employers that allows women to perform their maternal duties without any stress or work pressure.

The maternity leave policy in India is defined under the Maternity Benefit Act of 1961 (revised in 2017). These paid leaves are granted to pregnant or expecting women employees by their employers to ensure the good health and well-being of themselves and their newborns.

What is the Maternity Leave Policy in India?

Maternity leave is a type of long-term paid leave granted to a pregnant employee in an organisation. It is a mandatory leave that a company or employer must provide to their eligible female employee before or after their delivery.

Below are some of the important points about maternity leave policy in India:

  • All pregnant female employees are entitled to a maternity leave of 26 weeks for their first and second child. Out of these, they can take up to 8 weeks of leave before the delivery of their child.

  • For the third or subsequent pregnancy, expecting mothers are eligible to take maternity leave of 12 weeks.

  • Adopting mothers are eligible for a 12-week maternity leave, which starts from the day their newborn is handed over to them.

  • In case of medical termination or accidental miscarriage, a woman employee can take 12 weeks of maternity leave. However, in this case, medical proof of miscarriage is required.

  • Besides, additional paid leaves can also be granted based on the health and situation of the mother and her baby.

  • It is to be noted that denying maternity benefits to female employees can attract some serious legal consequences, including imprisonment, for the employer.

Understanding Maternity Benefit Act, 1961

As discussed above, the provision for maternity leave in India is defined under the Maternity Benefit Act passed in 1961. It laid the much-needed foundation for the applicability, eligibility, and benefits of maternity leave for female employees in the country.

The main objective of the Maternity Act is to provide job security to female employees while they are taking care of themselves and their newborn children.

Revised Maternity Benefit Act, 2017

As time passed, the need for refinement in the original Maternity Benefit Act became indispensable. This has led to the formation of the revised Maternity Benefit Act (Amended) in 2017.

This updated act has brought several changes in the maternity leave policy including extending the period of leave from 12 weeks (3 months) to 26 weeks (6 months), inclusion of leave for adopting mothers, provision for working from home, and more.

Let's discuss all these changes in detail.

Extended Duration of Maternity Leave: The original Maternity Benefit Act provided a leave of only 12 weeks or 3 months. Thankfully, the 2017 amendment has increased this duration to 26 weeks or 6 months.

All pregnant employees can take up to 8 weeks' leave before their expected delivery date and up to 18 weeks after giving birth to their child.

Maternity Leave for Adopting and Commissioning Mothers: The revisions in the Maternity Benefit Act have included a 12-week maternity leave for female employees who are adopting a child below 3 months of age.

The same provision applies to a commissioning mother, the biological mother who utilised her eggs to produce an embryo placed in the uterus of another mother.

Note that this leave duration starts right from the day the child is handed over to the applicant.

Access to Crèche Facilities: According to the 2017 amendment, childcare facilities or crèches should be available near an organisation with 50 or more employees. Moreover, the employer should allow new mothers to visit the childcare facility up to four times a day.

Work-from-home Facility: Finally, the 2017 amendment provided that if remote work is possible, then the employer should allow the employee to work from the comfort of their home during pregnancy.

In fact, the work-from-home facility can be extended past the end of maternity leave, subject to a mutual contract between the employee and the organisation.

Eligibility for Maternity Leave in India

The Maternity Leave Policy in India is applicable to all women working in private as well as public sector organisations. It means that female employees in private companies, government organisations, factories, plantations, etc., with more than 10 employees, are entitled to maternity leave.

Note that the Maternity Benefit Act does not apply to self-employed women and those working with a firm that has less than 10 employees.

In order to be eligible for maternity leave in a company, the woman must have worked for a minimum of 160 days in the period of 12 months before her expected date of child delivery.

What are the Benefits of Maternity Leave?

Good Health and Well-being of Mother and Her Child: Motherhood is a boon for every woman. However, it comes with a fair amount of mental, physical, and emotional challenges. It is not a hidden fact that the last few months of pregnancy can be extremely difficult for the expecting mother.

Working in a condition like this is not recommended. This is where maternity leave becomes important. The primary advantage of maternity leave is that it ensures that the mother and her baby are in good health.

It allows the employee to take a break from work and fully focus on herself and the new life she is bringing to the world.

Better Employee Retention: The maternity leave policy of the company is one of the first things most females check at the time of joining the organisation.

Not just that, the absence of a maternity leave policy can be a major reason behind employee drop-off.

By providing maternity benefits to their female employees, employers can increase their employee retention rate while gaining trust and improving their reputation in the industry.

Legal Adherence: As per the Maternity Benefit Act of India, every employer or company with more than 10 employees must offer a maternity leave policy to pregnant employees.

Not adhering to this regulation is considered a legal offence that may lead to fines and penalties and even result in the imprisonment of the employer.

Promotes Healthy Work-life Balance: Another notable benefit of maternity leave is that it promotes a healthy balance between the personal and professional life of a female employee.

It allows them to perform their duties as professionals as well as caregivers/mothers in a happy and healthy way.

Above all, provisions like maternity leave prevent women from giving up on their careers due to family planning.

Helps in Maintaining a Positive Work Culture: By lending their support, maternity leave enables an employer to foster a positive work environment where every employee is seen as an asset to the organisation.

It helps them instil a sense of trust, compassion, and job security into the minds of their valuable employees.

Maternity Leave Duration in India

Type of Maternity Leave Duration (in weeks)
Pre-natal Leave 8 weeks
Post-natal Leave 18 weeks
Total Maternity Leave (for up to 2 childbirths) 26 weeks
Total Maternity Leaves (for the third or subsequent childbirth) 12 weeks
Leave for Miscarriage/Medical Termination  12 weeks
Leave for Adopting/Commissioning Mothers 12 weeks

What is the "Right to Pay" in the Maternity Leave Policy in India?

The "Right to Pay" is the most critical aspect of the Maternity Benefit Act in India. It is a government rule for maternity leave that entitles the pregnant employee to receive financial compensation from the employer during her maternity leave.

This benefit ensures that the woman doesn't have to struggle financially when they are not working.

Below is the complete breakdown of the "Right to Pay" in maternity leave policy in India:

Entitlement: Every woman who is eligible for maternity leave has the right to receive financial compensation from the employer or the respective government agency. This compensation aims at replacing a part of a woman's monthly income during her leave so that she doesn't have to face any financial strain.

Rate of Payment: The financial compensation during maternity leave is provided at the rate of the average daily wage of the employee before she is absent from work. Most often, the financial benefit is a percentage of the average daily earnings of the woman.

Legal Mandate: The right to payment in maternity leave is often backed by Indian labour laws and other regulations. Thus, employers are mandated to adhere to the laws and offer necessary payment to the employees on maternity leave.

Some Other Maternity Leave Rules in India

  • Employers are mandated to pay full wages to the employee on maternity leave. The rate at which salary is disbursed is calculated based on her actual daily wages during the three months before her leave duration.

  • Employers must not employ a woman up to 6 weeks after her delivery, miscarriage or medical termination of pregnancy. In simple words, at least a 6-week rest period should be provided.

  • Employers must have easily accessible childcare facilities (crèches) to help a woman restore her position in the organisation after returning from a maternity leave.

  • Pregnant employees should be taken extra care of. They should be provided with necessary amenities like clean restrooms, comfortable seating spaces, clean drinking water, etc.

  • Employers should not assign difficult tasks to pregnant employees or engage them in longer working hours at least 10 weeks before their expected delivery date. It is extremely important to ensure the safety and well-being of mother and child.

  • Additional leaves can be provided to an employee if she is unable to work after maternity leave. It must be done on a mutual agreement.

  • The employer can not dismiss or fire the employee who is on maternity leave. Doing so is a punishable offence.

  • A legal notice or maternity leave application must be given to the employer by the pregnant employee before going on maternity leave. The same applies to rejoining the company after delivery.

Maternity Leave Challenges Faced by the Employers

The Maternity Benefit Act has been designed in the favour of mothers and their babies. It is indeed a commendable program that every eligible employer must follow in the country.

However, an employer has to go through several challenges when offering maternity leave to their pregnant employees. Let's discuss some of those challenges:

Limited Resources: The scarcity of resources is perhaps the biggest challenge faced by employers when granting maternity leaves to multiple employees at the same time.

This is especially true for small-scale companies and employers and the ones that have just started their operations.

Decreased Productivity: Another common challenge faced by most employers is the decrease in work efficiency and productivity due to the absence of their full-time employees.

Again, if more than one employee is on maternity leave for the same duration, then filling their gaps can lead to lower working efficiency.

Higher Employee Drop-off Rate: Employers who don't provide maternity leave benefits to their female employees struggle to retain their employees and hire new talents.

The reason behind this is simple: most female applicants prefer working in an organisation that offers maternity benefits and job security during pregnancy.

Sour Working Environment: Sometimes, giving special attention to pregnant employees in terms of leaves and extra perks can upset other employees.

They start feeling ignored or less important in the organisation. This, in turn, leads to a sour and inefficient working environment.

Overcome Maternity Leave Challenges with Tata AIG Health Insurance

Every employer is recommended to invest in group health insurance from a trustworthy provider like Tata AIG.

With our group health insurance policy, you can foster a sense of equality among your employees. It will help you take care of not just the pregnant employees but every person who is working in your organisation.

Our group health insurance plans are carefully drafted to provide you with benefits like extended coverage to family members, quick claims processing, no waiting period for pre-existing diseases, and, of course, a budget-friendly premium cost.

To make your group health insurance even more comprehensive, you can purchase add-ons like critical illness insurance and maternity insurance cover to extend coverage to the employees on maternity leave and those suffering from a serious health condition like cancer, cardiac issues, etc.

Securing your organisation with the right health insurance policy will help you maintain a positive working space while increasing your employee retention rate. On top of it, it will also help you attract the best talents to your organisation.

Besides, it is also advisable to invest in suitable business insurance to protect your overall business from unforeseen loss/damage such as theft, fire, explosions, and more.

Final Words

The maternity leave policy in India is formulated under the Maternity Benefit Act. It offers the necessary support for the female employee during her pregnancy, miscarriage, or postpartum recovery.

Not only does it ensure the job security of the employee during their absence on maternity leave, but it also makes sure they don't face any financial burden by providing them with financial compensation.

The provision for maternity leave is beneficial for the employer as well. It allows them to gain the trust and respect of their employees while also improving their employee retention rate.

FAQS

Can maternity leave be extended in India?

Maternity leave in India can only be extended upon mutual agreement between the organisation and the employee. A leave extension can be granted if the employee is struggling during her postpartum recovery phase.

Is maternity leave paid or unpaid?

Maternity leave in India is a paid leave. It means that the employees on maternity leave are entitled to get financial compensation for as long as they are away from work.

What if an employee wants to rejoin my work before completing her maternity leave duration?

As per the Maternity Benefit Act of India, no employer can allow an employee to work until they complete 6 weeks after giving birth. This is very essential to ensure a faster recovery and goodwill for the new working mother.

Can an employee apply for maternity leave after experiencing a miscarriage?

Yes. Although the original Maternity Benefit Act of 1961 did not have such a provision, the amendment of 2017 has extended the maternity leave benefits to mothers who have undergone a miscarriage or legal termination of their pregnancy.

In case of such an unfortunate incident, maternity leave of up to 12 weeks can be availed by the employee.

Who pays for maternity leave in India?

The responsibility of offering financial support to the employees during their maternity leave is the employer. They are mandated to provide full-time salary to the expectant or the new mother.

How to apply for maternity leave in India?

The applicant needs to give a written application or notice to the employer or their HR authorities before starting her maternity leave.

Disclaimer / TnC

Your policy is subjected to terms and conditions & inclusions and exclusions mentioned in your policy wording. Please go through the documents carefully.

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