State to enforce Maternity Benefits Act 1961

Gangtok, 14 Dec:

The Cabinet has cleared the proposal of Law department to extend and enforce the Maternity Benefits Act, 1961 with subsequent amendments to the State of Sikkim.

The Maternity Benefits Act, 1961 will bring uniformity in maternity benefits throughout the country with 26 weeks leave up to the birth of two children to female employees of state government and its undertakings.

Earlier, a Public Interest Litigation had also been filed in the High Court of Sikkim by a practicing advocate seeking the court's intervention for passing the direction for working women not only in government sector, but also seeks the implementation of the newly enacted law in the private sector where more than 50 employees are working. As per the Maternity Benefit Act, where there are 50 or more employees working there should be a provision of crèche facility.

The amendments to the Maternity Benefit Act, which were enforced from 01 April earlier this year, in particular the provision of 26 weeks of paid maternity leave and the mandatory crèche facility, are path-breaking, but there are concerns over their feasibility. Under the MB Amendment Act, this benefit could be availed by women for a period extending up to 8 weeks before the expected delivery date and remaining 18 weeks can be availed post childbirth. For women who are expecting after having 2 children, the duration of paid maternity leave shall be 12 weeks (6 weeks pre and 6 weeks post expected date of delivery).

The Maternity Benefit Act passed in 1961, protects the right to employment of these women during the time of their maternity and entitles them a ‘maternity benefit.’ To be eligible for maternity benefit, a woman must have been working as an employee in an establishment for at least 80 days in the past 12 months.