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A Closer Look at the Maternity Benefit Act and Its Impact

Women who constitute almost half of the segment of our society must be honoured and treated with dignity at places where they work to earn their livelihood; they must be provided all the facilities which they all entitled. The Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 (amended in 2017) aims to provide all these facilities to a working women in a dignified manner so that she may overcome the state of motherhood honourably.

India is the largest democracy in the world. And various jurists like Bentham and J.S. Mill propounded that;

"any law or provision which brings greatest good for the people, that law or provision is acceptable although small number of people might be affected by the provision".

The provision of the Act which have been set out in (Section 27) would indicate that it is wholly in consonance with the DPSP, as set out in Article 38 and Article 39, especially Article 42.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948

It declares that motherhood and childhood are entitled to equal special care. Article 03 of the Convention mandates that in all action concerning maternity, whether undertaken by public departments or private social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies, the best interest of maternity (child) shall be the primary consideration. The nation's (organisations or establishments) are required to take all appropriate measures.

This Article 03 expressly validates and affirms Section 27 of Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 (amended in 2017).

Legal & Parliamentary Framework

Parliamentary Member labeled this amendment bill as a "priority" for government because:

The legal framework behind enactment of maternity Benefit Act, 1961 is:
  • To protect the dignity of women's motherhood, with complete health care.
  • To assure that women spend quality time with her child without ant worry about her employment.
  • To safeguard working women and their eights to remain self-reliant and economically independent.
Therefore, any women can enter into any agreement with her employer for granting her rights or privileges in respect of any matter, which are more favorable to her than those to which he is entitle under Maternity Benefit Act, 1961. (Section 27(2) of this Act)

If any establishment enact any rule under their Fundamental Code of Employment, for the better Maternity protection and to facilitate the dignified growth of health of women and her child during maternity, than the Women has the right to came into agreement with the employer, even if such Rule is not in consonance or provide a larger beneficial vitae to women during maternity.

  • The provision of Creches in Maternity benefit Act is limited to establishment having at least 50 or more employees, (Sec. 11A) or, at least 30 female employees (Factories Act, 1948).

    But, the Employer may make an agreement with women employee to provide Creche facility, even below such prescribed limit.
  • The Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 states that women should have worked with her employer for at least 80 days in the 12 months preceding the date of her expected delivery. (Section 5(2))

    But, the Employer may come into an agreement with women employee to provide her benefits under Section 5(2) of Act without such restriction.
Case Laws
  • State of Uttarakhand vs. Urmila Masih (2019 SCC Online Utt 927)
    A Fundamental rule was enacted by the establishment under head of Section 27, that is, the Organisation is not responsible for providing maternity benefits to the women employed with employer for her third child.

    Uttarakhand High Court held that; the language of Section 27 is for the welfare and promotion of women's right and motherhood, not to put limitation on existing right. The establishment or State is bound to provide maternity benefits to women even for her third child.
  • K. Umadevi vs. Government of Tamil Nadu & Ors. [(2022) 03 Mad CK 0010]
    Madras High Court held that; The Provision of Maternity Benefit Acts, 1961 (amended in 2017) especially, Sec 27 is applicable to regular employees as well as the women employees borne on muster roll of establishment or also to women working in unorganized sector.

The Maternity Benefit Act was subsumed along with 14 other Acts in the draft code on Social Security, 2019. This law applies to any organisation with 10 or more employees. The Act states that a woman who has worked in an organisation for at least 80 days is entitled to maternity benefits.

With respect to the provided Section 27; any women can enter into any agreement with her employer for granting her rights or privileges in respect of any matter, which are more favorable to her than those to which he is entitle under Maternity Benefit Act, 1961. The employer must take all care and caution to bear all cost of maternity and all other related benefits to which the women and employer agreed under employment agreement.

Award Winning Article Is Written By: Mr.Rajat Tiwari
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Authentication No: JU354612844230-29-0623

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