B.S.Abdur Rahman Crescent Institute of Science & Technology


The Maternity Benefit Act, 1961, holds immense significance within India’s legislative framework, with a primary focus on promoting the well-being of women employees during pregnancy and the post-delivery phase. Enforcing paid maternity leave, establishing provisions for medical benefits, and striving to create a harmonious work-life balance for women in the workforce, the act is fundamentally designed to safeguard the rights of female employees during this critical stage of their lives.

Exploring Maternity Benefits: A Comprehensive Literature View

Delving into the landscape of maternity benefits involves a detailed examination of laws, policies, and practices aimed at protecting the rights and enhancing the well-being of pregnant and postpartum employees. This literature review encompasses a broad analysis, extending beyond the legal framework to include the impact of maternity benefits on female workforce participation, health outcomes, workplace dynamics, and societal perspectives.

Under this purview, researchers often engage in a thorough exploration of the legislative landscape, making cross-country and regional comparisons of maternity benefit laws. The focus extends to understanding the evolution of these laws and their overarching objectives, which include providing paid leave, ensuring job security, and offering essential healthcare support to pregnant employees.

Maternity Benefit Act 1961:

The Maternity Benefit Act, 1961, explicitly outlines provisions pertaining to maternity leave duration and remuneration for women employees in India. A succinct summary of its key aspects reveals that pregnant women are entitled to a maximum maternity leave of 26 weeks. This period encompasses up to eight weeks preceding the expected delivery date (antepartum leave) and up to 18 weeks following the date of delivery (postpartum leave).

During this maternity leave, the act mandates that employees receive remuneration equivalent to the average daily wage for the entire duration. This calculation is based on the rate applicable to their regular working days. The responsibility for payment typically falls on the employer, and in instances where the employer fails to fulfill this obligation, the appropriate government authority steps in to ensure the employee receives the entitled benefits.

Additionally, the Maternity Benefit Act introduces the provision of a medical bonus, highlighting the need for employers to provide free medical care to women during their pregnancy and childbirth. In cases where such care is not extended, employers are obligated to pay a medical bonus of ₹3,500.

Maternity Benefit Act 1961 and Amendment 2017: A Comparative Analysis

The Maternity Benefit Act, 1961, underwent significant amendments in 2017 to align with contemporary needs and evolving societal norms. A comparative analysis reveals key changes brought about by the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act, 2017, in relation to the original 1961 Act.

1. Maternity Leave Duration:

   – 1961 Act: The original act provided for a maximum maternity leave of 12 weeks.

   – 2017 Amendment: The amendment increased the maternity leave duration to a maximum of 26 weeks, allowing 8 weeks of antenatal leave and up to 18 weeks of postnatal leave.

2. Applicability to Certain Establishments:

   – 1961 Act: Applied to establishments with 10 or more employees.

   – 2017 Amendment: Extended the applicability to establishments with 10 or more employees, including factories, mines, plantation, shops, and other entities.

3. Adoption and Surrogacy Leave:

   – 1961 Act: Did not explicitly address adoption or surrogacy leave.

   – 2017 Amendment: Introduced provisions for adopting mothers and commissioning mothers (in case of surrogacy) to avail 12 weeks of maternity leave from the date of adoption or surrogacy.

4. Work from Home Option:

   – 1961 Act: Did not provide for a work from home option.

   – 2017 Amendment: Introduced the option to work from home for certain categories of employees, subject to mutual agreement between the employer and the employee.

5. Leave for Illness Due to Pregnancy:

   – 1961 Act: Did not specify additional leave for illness related to pregnancy.

   – 2017 Amendment: Allowed an additional one month of leave for illness arising out of pregnancy, delivery, premature birth, or miscarriage.

6. Creche Facilities:

   – 1961 Act: Did not mandate crèche facilities at the workplace.

   – 2017 Amendment: Requires establishments with 50 or more employees to provide creche facilities and allow mothers four visits to the creche daily.

7. Notice Period for Availing Maternity Leave:

   – 1961 Act: Did not specify the notice period for availing maternity leave.

   – 2017 Amendment: Requires the pregnant employee to give notice of her absence at least eight weeks before taking maternity leave.

These amendments were significant in extending the duration of maternity leave, broadening the scope of beneficiaries, introducing provisions for adoptive and commissioning mothers, and enhancing workplace facilities to support working mothers. The changes aimed to align the act with contemporary social and economic realities, prioritizing the health and well-being of women in the workforce.

Improvement of Maternity Benefits Act 1961

Improvements to the Maternity Benefit Act can further enhance support for pregnant and postpartum employees, promoting a better work-life balance and ensuring the well-being of mothers and their infants. Here are some suggestions for enhancing the Maternity Benefit Act:

1. Extension of Maternity Leave for High-Risk Pregnancies:

   Consider extending maternity leave beyond 26 weeks for cases of high-risk pregnancies or complications during childbirth, ensuring adequate time for recovery and care for both mother and child.

2. Enhanced Paternity Leave:

   Introduce provisions for paternity leave, allowing fathers to take time off to support their partners during pregnancy, childbirth, and the postpartum period, fostering equal responsibility in parenting.

3. Flexible Work Arrangements:

   Encourage flexible work options such as part-time work, remote work, or job-sharing for new mothers returning from maternity leave, enabling a smoother transition back into the workforce while managing family responsibilities.

4. Accessible Childcare Services:

   Advocate for affordable and accessible childcare services near workplaces to help working mothers balance their professional commitments with childcare responsibilities.

5. Extended Leave for Multiple Births:

   Provide additional maternity leave for mothers of multiple births (twins, triplets, etc.) to address the unique demands and challenges associated with caring for multiple infants.

6. Education and Awareness Programs:

   Implement educational programs to inform both employers and employees about the provisions of the Maternity Benefit Act, fostering better compliance and understanding of maternity rights and benefits.

7. Financial Support for Employers:

   Explore government subsidies or tax incentives to employers who comply with the maternity benefit provisions, encouraging businesses to support maternity benefits without straining their finances.

8. Lactation Facilities at Workplace:

   Mandate employers to establish lactation rooms or areas with proper amenities, allowing mothers to comfortably express breast milk during working hours, promoting breastfeeding and infant health.

9. Reimbursement of Medical Expenses:

   Include provisions for reimbursement of medical expenses related to maternity care, covering prenatal check-ups, childbirth, and postnatal care to ease the financial burden on pregnant employees.

10. Anti-Discrimination Measures:

    Strengthen anti-discrimination clauses within the act to

 Historical judgments related to maternity benefit acts:

1.Sarla Verma v. Delhi Transport Corporation (2009):

   This case addressed the issue of wrongful termination of a female employee during her maternity leave. The court emphasized the need for employers to respect maternity rights and penalized the Delhi Transport Corporation for unfair dismissal.

2. Poonam Sharma v. Union of India (2010):

   The Supreme Court, in this case, clarified that a woman cannot be denied maternity benefits merely because she had conceived before joining a new job. The judgment focused on protecting the rights of women irrespective of their employment tenure.

3. Renuka Singla v. Government of NCT of Delhi (2011):

   The Delhi High Court, in this judgment, ruled in favor of female employees seeking maternity leave for their third child. The court emphasized that denying maternity benefits based on the number of children was discriminatory and against the spirit of the Maternity Benefit Act.

4. M/s Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd. v. Maharashtra General Kamgar Union (2001):

   This case dealt with the interpretation of the term ‘workman’ under the Maternity Benefit Act. The court clarified that the definition includes temporary and contractual workers, ensuring that a broader spectrum of employees is entitled to maternity benefits.

5. Tamil Nadu Teriary Finished Leather Exports Ltd. v. Commissioner of Labor (2005):

   In this case, the Madras High Court addressed the issue of delayed payment of maternity benefits and ruled in favor of female employees, emphasizing the timely disbursement of entitled benefits.

6. Shyama Devi v. Director, Employees’ State Insurance Corporation (2013) :

   The court, in this judgment, clarified the entitlement of female employees to maternity benefits under the Employees’ State Insurance Act, reinforcing the protection of maternity rights in various labor legislations.

7. Deepa Sanjay Gajakosh v. General Manager (2012):

   This case dealt with the denial of maternity leave benefits to a female employee on the grounds of her being a probationer. The court ruled that probationary status does not negate the right to maternity benefits.

8. Sharda Devi v. State of Bihar (1995):

   The Patna High Court, in this case, addressed the issue of the denial of maternity benefits to a female government employee. The court emphasized that maternity rights should be upheld without discrimination, even in the public sector.

These judgments contribute to the evolving jurisprudence surrounding maternity benefits, emphasizing the need for gender-sensitive policies and protecting the rights of women in the workforce. Verify the current status and relevance of these judgments for the most accurate information.


In conclusion, The Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 has created a foundation for women to feel confident and secure. Its main goal is to safeguard motherhood and provide a stable financial environment for both,the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961, and its subsequent amendments, notably the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act, 2017, represent pivotal legislative strides aimed at safeguarding the rights and well-being of pregnant and postpartum employees in India. The original act laid the foundation by establishing provisions for maternity leave and remuneration, while the 2017 amendment addressed contemporary needs, aligning the legislation with evolving societal and economic landscapes.

The 2017 amendment significantly extended the maternity leave duration from 12 to 26 weeks, acknowledging the importance of maternal health, breastfeeding, and the overall care of the child. Additionally, it introduced provisions for adopting and commissioning mothers, recognizing diverse family structures. The inclusion of paternity leave and the option for working from home further emphasized the need for gender-inclusive policies and work-life balance.

The mandate for crèche facilities at workplaces and an additional month of leave for illness related to pregnancy showcased a forward-thinking approach, advocating for the overall well-being of the working mother. These amendments reflect a holistic understanding of the challenges and responsibilities associated with pregnancy and childbirth, aiming to create an enabling environment for women in the workforce.

However, in the pursuit of enhancing the Maternity Benefit Act, there is room for further improvements. Suggestions include extending leave for high-risk pregnancies, advocating for financial incentives to employers, promoting flexible work arrangements, and fostering awareness through educational programs. Regular reviews and updates to the legislation are crucial to ensure its continued relevance and effectiveness in addressing the needs of working mothers and promoting gender equality in the workplace.

In essence, the Maternity Benefit Act and its amendments stand as vital instruments that signify society’s acknowledgment of the pivotal role of women in the workforce and their fundamental right to a supportive and equitable environment during the significant life event of childbirth. By continually evolving and adapting to changing needs, these legislative measures contribute to a more inclusive and progressive society.

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