The Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 regulates employment of women in certain establishments for a certain period before and after childbirth and provides for maternity and other benefits. It extends to the whole of India except the State of Jammu and Kashmir. Maternity Benefits are aimed to protect the dignity of motherhood by providing for the full and healthy maintenance of women and her child when she is not working. The Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 is applicable to mines, factories, circus industry, plantations, shops and establishments employing ten or more persons
Child includes a still-born child. Woman means a woman employed, whether directly or through any agency, for wages in any establishment.
No woman shall be entitled to maternity benefit unless she has actually worked in an establishment of the employer from whom she claims maternity benefit for a period of not less than one hundred and sixty days in the twelve months immediately preceding the date of her expected delivery. Provided that the qualifying period of one hundred and sixty days aforesaid shall not apply to a woman who has immigrated into the State of Assam and was pregnant at the time of the immigration.
Every woman shall be entitled to, and her employer shall be liable for, the payment of maternity benefit at the rate of the average daily wage for the period of her actual absence, that is to say, the period immediately preceding the day of her delivery, the actual day of her delivery and any period immediately following that day.
The maximum period for which any woman shall be entitled to maternity benefit shall be twelve weeks of which not more than six weeks shall precede the date of her expected delivery. If a woman dies during this period, the maternity benefit shall be payable only for the days up to and including the day of her death. Where a woman, having been delivered of a child, dies during her delivery or during the period immediately following the date of her delivery for which she is entitled for the maternity benefit, leaving behind in either case the child, the employer shall be liable for the maternity benefit for that entire period. If the child also dies during the said period, then, for the days up to and including the date of the death of the child.
Amendment in 2017
The amended act makes it compulsory for the employers to educate women about the maternity benefits available to them at the time of their appointment. The period of paid maternity leave (“Maternity Benefit”) that a woman employee is entitled to has been increased to 26 (twenty six) weeks. Further, the Act previously allowed pregnant women to avail Maternity Benefit for only 6 (six) weeks prior to the date of expected delivery. Now, this period is increased to 8 (eight) weeks. Maternity benefit of 26 weeks can be extended to women who are already under maternity leave at the time of enforcement of this Amendment. The increased Maternity Benefit is only available for the first two children. The Amendment provides that a woman having two or more surviving children shall only be entitled to 12 (twelve) weeks of Maternity Benefit of which not more than 6 (six) shall be taken prior to the date of the expected delivery.
A woman who adopts a child below the age of 3 (three) months, or a commissioning mother (means a biological mother, who uses her egg to create an embryo implanted in any other woman), will be entitled to Maternity Benefit for a period of 12 (twelve) weeks from the date the child is handed over to the adopting mother or the commissioning mother. If the nature of work assigned to a woman is such that she can work from home, an employer may allow her to work from home post the period of Maternity Benefit. The conditions for working from home may be mutually agreed between the employer and the woman.
If a woman entitled to maternity benefit or any other amount under this Act, dies before receiving such maternity benefit or amount, or where the employer is liable for maternity benefit , the employer shall pay such benefit or amount to the person nominated by the woman , to her legal representative. In case of miscarriage, a woman shall, on production of such proof as may be prescribed, be entitled to leave with wages at the rate of maternity benefit for a period of six weeks immediately following the day of her miscarriage. A woman suffering illness arising out of pregnancy, delivery, premature birth of child or miscarriage shall, on production of such proof as may be prescribed, be entitled in addition to the period of absence allowed to her under section 6, or, as the case may be, to leave with wages at the rate of maternity benefit for a maximum period of one month.
If any employer contravenes the provisions of this Act or the rules made there under he shall be punishable with imprisonment which may extend to three months, or with fine which may extend to five hundred rupees, or with both; and where the contravention is of any provision regarding maternity benefit or regarding payment of any other amount and such maternity benefit or amount has not already been recovered, the court shall in addition recover such maternity benefit or amount as if it were a fine, and pay the same to the person entitled thereto.
Whoever fails to produce on demand by the Inspector any register or document in his custody kept in pursuance of this Act or the rules made there under or conceals or prevents any person from appearing before or being examined by an Inspector, shall be punishable with imprisonment which extend to three months, or with fine which may extend to five hundred rupees or with both.
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