Maternity Benefit Act is an act to regulate the employment of women in certain establishment for certain period before and after child-birth and to provide for other maternity benefits (including maternity leave, wages, bonus, nursing breaks, etc.). This Act is enacted on the basis of article 39(e) and (f) of the constitution which states:
“State shall, in particular, direct its policy towards securing the health and strength of workers, men and women”.
Section 2 states applicability of this Act to every establishment being a factory, mine or plantation in which 10 or more persons are or were employed on any day of the preceding 12 months.
Section 3 of the Act enlists definitions of some of the key terms including ‘child’, ‘delivery’, ‘establishment’ ‘miscarriage’, ‘wages’, etc. The definition of ‘child’ includes a still born child too and ‘miscarriage’ means removal of the contents of pregnant uterus at any period prior or during the twenty-sixth week of pregnancy. The term ‘miscarriage’ does not include any miscarriage that is punishable under the Indian Penal Code.
Section 4 prohibits any employer to knowingly employ a woman in any establishment during six weeks immediately following the day of her delivery or her miscarriage.
Section 5 (1) states that every women shall be entitled to maternity benefits by her employer at the rate of average daily wage for the period of her actual absence.
Section 5 (2) states that any woman worker is eligible for maternity benefits only if she has worked in any establishment for a period of not less than 160 days in the twelve months immediately preceding the date of her expected delivery. This qualifying period of 160 days is not applicable to woman who has immigrated into the State of Assam and was pregnant at the time of immigration.
As per section 5 (3) of the Act, any working women is entitled to maternity benefit for a maximum period of 12 weeks (six weeks up to and including the day of her delivery and six weeks immediately following the date of delivery).
Section 6 states that any woman employed in an establishment and entitled to maternity benefit under the provisions of this Act may give notice in writing. However, failure to provide notice does not disentitle a woman to maternity benefit.
Section 8 states that every woman entitled to maternity benefit under this Act shall also be entitled to receive a medical bonus of twenty-five rupees, if no prenatal and postnatal care is not provided by the employer free of charge. Prenatal care is a type of preventive healthcare. Its goal is to provide regular check-ups that allow doctors to treat or prevent potential health problems throughout the pregnancy and to promote healthy lifestyle. Postnatal care refers to healthcare during the period after child birth.
Section 9 states that in case of miscarriage, a woman shall (on production of such proof) be entitled to leave with wages for a period of six weeks immediately following the day of her miscarriage.
Section 10 states that a woman suffering illness arising out of pregnancy, delivery, premature birth of child or miscarriage shall (on production of such proof), be entitled , to leave with wages at the rate of maternity benefit for a maximum period of one month in addition to provisions under Section 6 and 9.
Section 11 states that every woman who returns to duty after delivery of a child shall, in addition to rest intervals, be allowed (in the course of her daily work) two breaks of the 15 minutes for nursing the child until the child attains the age of fifteen months.
Section 12 states that an employer is not allowed to dismiss or discharge any woman of her duties during her actual absence from workplace (in accordance to provisions of this Act).
Section 13 states that no deduction from the usual daily wages of a woman entitled to maternity benefit shall be made due to the nature of work assigned to her or breaks for nursing the child allowed to her under the provisions of section 11.
Section 21 states that if any employer do not abide by the provisions of this Act or the rules made, 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.