Every working woman should know what the Maternity Benefits Act, 1961 is all about

Submitted by asandil on 2/12/2014

In a developing society where women’s role in all walks of life is getting broader day by day, it was necessary for the government to preserve their self-respect for motherliness and absolute safety for the child to be born. As the numbers of women employees are increasing rapidly in both public and private sector, granting them maternity leave and other benefits and allowances were recommended by the social activists and other women forums across the country.

Before 1961, there was no comprehensive provision in Indian law system for the protection of women working in different private and public sector industrial units. The Maternity Benefits Act came into existence in the year 1961 when the Govt. of India, with a view to provide a certain amount of leaves and other benefits for pregnant women, took a never-before initiative. It was a giant leap in the direction of empowering working women during their pregnancy.

Under this Act, no employer, be it a private or Govt., can intentionally keep a woman engaged in work up to six weeks after their delivery or miscarriage. In the same way, a working woman is strictly barred from working anywhere before six weeks of her delivery or miscarriage. The provisions in this Act also include that if the nature of work in which a woman is engaged, involves more physical activities, the seriousness of the case increases manifold.

Imposing all the duties and responsibilities on the employer as determined by the law, the Act entitles each and every woman to take advantages of all the allowance and benefits in both public and private sector firms. A working woman is granted maternity leave for 12 weeks in two terms- first one is before 6 weeks of delivery, and the second one for 6 weeks after delivery. The Act further directs that the woman who goes on maternity leave will be given her full stipend without any deduction. The woman has been power to authorise any person to materialise the benefits and grants on her behalf in case is not able to move to any particular venue. She has to make a declaration that she will not work anywhere during the tenure of maternity leave.

The Act has also a provision that says each and every employer will have to pay the maternity benefits in advance to her pregnant women employees if she expresses the requirement with sufficient proofs of her pregnancy. In case, the life of a woman comes to an end before taking advantages of maternity benefits, the concerned employer will have to pay the entire amounts/benefits/ allowances to her legally prescribed nominee or representative.

No employer is allowed to dismiss or discharge a woman just because her absence in office during pregnancy. The Act empowers woman to file a written compliant if her employer does not follow the rules and regulations as determined by the law. The central Govt. is very strict in getting a flawless execution implemented by different state governments also. Keeping in view the protection and empowerment of working women on the agenda, the Govt. of India has been making certain amendments in The Maternity Benefits Act.