Kerala becomes the first state in the country to bring employees in the private educational sector including those working in the unaided sector, under the domain of the Maternity Benefit Act.
On August 29, 2019, a cabinet meeting was held by the Kerala government to get the approval of the Centre and to issue notification for bringing employees of the private sector under the ambit of the Act. The Central government has also approved the decision of the state government.
Currently, maternity leave and other benefits are only applicable to government women employees. However, there were persistent demands from many women employees from the private sector to extend the maternity benefits to them as well.
The Maternity Benefit Act provides protection to women and regulates the employment of women in certain establishments for a definite period of time during and after child-birth. By this, the women employees can be absent from work without loss of pay while taking care of the child.
According to the new Act, employees covered under the law can avail 26 weeks of maternity leave along with salary. This period would be around six months. Also, the employer can avail an amount of ₹1,000 as medical allowance.
There are other benefits that the Act provides. The Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act, 2017 also has an enabling provision to work from home for women, which may be exercised after the expiry of the 26 weeks’ leave period. Depending upon the nature of work, women employees may be able to avail this benefit on terms that are mutually agreed with the employer.
Other benefits of the Act include, the provision of crèche services near the office places of these employees, where in an organisation there are 50 or more employees on any day of the year. Also, the maternity benefit provision can be extended towards adopting as well as commissioning mothers.