Labour Compliance

Employer Compliance under the Maternity Benefit Act

Employer Compliance

The Constitution of India mandates gender equality in employment, however, the same is not achieved as most women are left with no alternative other than quitting their jobs owing to their pregnancy and pre and post-natal care.

The government introduced the Maternity benefit Act 1961[1] to address this issue, and every employer is mandated to comply with the provisions of the Act. However, many employers are subjected to punitive actions in the event of non-compliance with the provisions of this Act.

The article discusses the Employer Compliance under the Maternity Benefit act to help the employer be aware of the necessary compliance requirements and avoid any penalties consequential to non-compliance.

What is Maternity Benefit?

Maternity benefit refers to the employer’s payment or allowances entitled to the woman during her pregnancy or after childbirth. The provisions regarding the same are governed under the Maternity Benefit Act. Every employer must comply with the provisions of this Act.

What is the Employer Compliance under the Maternity Benefit Act?

The Employer Compliance under the Maternity Benefit act is explained below-

Prohibition of Employment of Women in Certain Cases

The employer must not employ any women in the establishment immediately after 6 weeks of her delivery, and no women should work in any establishment during this time frame.

Upon the women’s request, the employer must ensure that the women are not engaged in any arduous work involving long hours of standing or any other manner that can affect the development of the foetus, cause miscarriage or adversely affects her health.

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Compliance Regarding the Payment of Maternity Benefit

The employer compliance with regard to the payment of maternity benefits is re-enlisted below.

  • Every employer is obligated to pay the maternity benefit, which must be at the rate of the average daily wage of the time period of her actual absence. However, the obligation for such payment is waived off if the woman has not worked in the employer’s establishment for 80 days in 12 months immediately preceding the date of her expected delivery.
  • The above-mentioned time period won’t qualify for a woman who has immigrated from Assam and was pregnant during such immigration.
  • The maximum period for which the employer is obligated to provide maternity benefit is 26 weeks which shall be 12 weeks in case the women have two or more 2 surviving children, out of which the maximum time period preceding the delivery is six weeks.
  • Every employer is obligated for the payment of maternity benefits only for the days up to and including the day of her death.
  • In case of death of a woman at the time of her delivery or after the delivery, leaving a child, the employer must pay the maternity benefit for that entire period, but if the child dies along with the mother during the said period, then the payment for the time period inclusive of the date of the death of the child.
  • If a woman legally adopts a child under 3 months of age, a commissioning mother or the adopting mother shall be entitled to maternity benefit for a period of 12 weeks from the date the child is given to the commissioning mother or adopting mother, as the case may be.
  • The employer must allow women to work from home if the nature of work is as such, for availing of the maternity benefit for such period and on such conditions as mutually agreed by the woman and the employer. 

Accept the Notice in respect of the claim of Maternity Benefit 

The employer must accept the notice provided by the pregnant woman, which must mention the intent of the woman or her nominee the maternity benefit along with the date from which she shall remain absent, and the employer, upon being served by such notice, provide the maternity benefit entitled to the women. 

The employer must pay the amount of maternity benefit for the period preceding the date of her expected delivery to the woman on the production of such proof. The employer is required to pay the amount due for the subsequent period to the woman within 48 hr of producing such proof as may be prescribed that the woman has delivered a child.

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The failure to issue such notice shall not disentitle the women from the maternity benefit.

If the women die during the delivery, the employer must pay the maternity benefit amount to the nominee of the pregnant woman that she had mentioned in the notice.

Payment of Medical Bonus 

Along with the maternity benefit, the employer is also obligated to provide a medical bonus to the women of Rs. one thousand if no pre-natal confinement and post-natal care are provided for by the employer free of cost. 

The amount of medical bonus may be revised by the Central Government every three years.

Compliance Requirement regarding Leaves of Women  

The employer compliance regarding the leaves of the women for the maternity benefit Act are

Sanction leave in case of miscarriage. 

The employer must sanction the leave with wages at the rate of maternity benefit for a period of six weeks in case of miscarriage or medical termination of pregnancy of the woman upon the production of proof of the same.

Leave with wages for tubectomy operation.

Any woman who has undergone a tubectomy operation shall be entitled to the leave and wages of maternity benefit for 2 weeks.

Leave for illness arising out of delivery, pregnancy, premature birth of the child, or miscarriage.

A woman has the right to leave with wages for a period of one month in the event of the circumstances mentioned above.

Nursing Breaks

The employer must ensure to provide nursing breaks to the woman along with the interval for rest allowed to her, together with 2 breaks of the prescribed duration for nursing the child until the child is 15 months old. 

Crèche facility  

The employer must provide a crèche facility in an establishment having fifty or more employees.

Further, the employer is obligated to allow  at least 4 visits within the day, including the intervals in the crèche

Such provision must be intimated to the woman at the time of her appointment in the establishment.

Prohibition of Dismissal of Pregnant Women

In accordance with this Act, it is unlawful for every employer to dismiss any woman in the event of her absence.

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If the employer still dismisses the woman, this would not disentitle her from the maternity benefits or medical bonus except in cases of gross misconduct by the employer.

The woman has the right to appeal to the appropriate authority regarding this employer’s decision within 60 days of such an order.

No deduction of wages in certain cases

The employer shall not deduct the daily wages of the women entitled to maternity benefits based on the nature of work or the nursing breaks entitled to her.

Forfeiture of maternity benefit

The employer reserves the right to forfeit the maternity benefit claim of women who work in any establishment during the term of pregnancy after being sanctioned the leaves from the current employer.

Display the abstracts of the provisions of this Act

It is the duty of the employer to display the abstracts of the provisions of this Act in conspicuous places in the language understood by the employees.

Maintenance of Records

The employer must maintain the registers’ muster rolls or any other relevant record in the prescribed manner.

Penalties of Non-Compliance

The employer would be liable for the following penalties in the event of non-compliance with the employer compliance discussed above.

Penalty for contravention of Act by employers

In the event of contravention of the Act’s provisions by the employer, he shall be liable for punishment with imprisonment, which may extend to 3 months, or with a fine of 500 rupees, or both.

Where there is a contravention with regard to the maternity benefits, its payment or any other payment regarding the same or amount has not already been recovered, the court has the power to recover the amount of such maternity benefit or the amount as a fine and pay the same to the entitled person.

Penalty for obstructing Inspector

Any person who denies producing the required record of registers prevents and conceals any person from appearing or before being examined by the inspector would be punished with imprisonment extending to 3 months, or with a fine, extending to five hundred rupees or with both.

Maternity Benefits (Amendment) Act 2017

The Maternity Benefit Amendment Act was enforced on 3rd April 2017 to encourage the participation of women labour force, maintain a work-lifework-life balance in the organisational sector, and protect the employment of expectant mothers.

The major employer compliance under the amended Act are –

  • Increase in maternity leave time period to 26 weeks
  • Maternity leave of twelve weeks for commissioning and adopting mothers
  • Option of work from home for the women
  • Crèche Facility
  • Awareness about Maternity Benefits

Conclusion

Employer Compliance under the Maternity Benefit Act can benefit both the employer and the working women as it can help the employer avoid the risks and penalties of non-compliance together with job security and work-life balance for pregnant working women. The provisions such as work from home, crèche facility, payments of maternity benefits, leaves and other relevant provisions help in developing a solid culture for individuals in the society.

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