Home NEWS Maternity Leave Policy in India 2024: A Comprehensive Guide

Maternity Leave Policy in India 2024: A Comprehensive Guide

by Nita Mishra

Maternity leave from work is crucial for ensuring job security and protecting the economic rights of the female workforce. It is a much-needed facility provided by employers that allows women to perform their maternal duties without any stress or work pressure. Let’s delve into the details of the Maternity Leave Policy in India, defined under the Maternity Benefit Act of 1961 (revised in 2017).

What is the Maternity Leave Policy in India? Maternity leave is a type of long-term paid leave granted to a pregnant employee in an organisation. It is a mandatory leave that a company or employer must provide to their eligible female employee before or after their delivery. Here are some important points about the maternity leave policy in India:

  • All pregnant female employees are entitled to a maternity leave of 26 weeks for their first and second child. Out of these, they can take up to 8 weeks of leave before the delivery of their child.
  • For the third or subsequent pregnancy, expecting mothers are eligible to take maternity leave of 12 weeks.
  • Adopting mothers are eligible for a 12-week maternity leave, which starts from the day their newborn is handed over to them.
  • In case of medical termination or accidental miscarriage, a woman employee can take 12 weeks of maternity leave. However, in this case, medical proof of miscarriage is required.
  • Besides, additional paid leaves can also be granted based on the health and situation of the mother and her baby.

It is important to note that denying maternity benefits to female employees can attract serious legal consequences, including imprisonment, for the employer.

Understanding Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 The Maternity Benefit Act passed in 1961 laid the foundation for the applicability, eligibility, and benefits of maternity leave for female employees in India. Its main objective is to provide job security to female employees while they are taking care of themselves and their newborn children.

Revised Maternity Benefit Act, 2017 In 2017, the Maternity Benefit Act was amended to bring several changes in the maternity leave policy:

  • Extended Duration of Maternity Leave: The duration of leave was increased from 12 weeks (3 months) to 26 weeks (6 months). Pregnant employees can take up to 8 weeks’ leave before their expected delivery date and up to 18 weeks after giving birth.
  • Maternity Leave for Adopting and Commissioning Mothers: The amendment included a 12-week maternity leave for female employees who are adopting a child below 3 months of age. The same provision applies to commissioning mothers.
  • Access to Crèche Facilities: Employers with 50 or more employees must have childcare facilities or crèches available near the workplace. New mothers can visit the facility up to four times a day.
  • Work-from-home Facility: Employers should allow remote work if possible, allowing the employee to work from home during pregnancy. This facility can be extended past the end of maternity leave, subject to mutual agreement.

Eligibility for Maternity Leave in India The Maternity Leave Policy in India is applicable to all women working in private as well as public sector organisations with more than 10 employees. It does not apply to self-employed women or those working with firms having less than 10 employees. To be eligible for maternity leave, a woman must have worked for a minimum of 160 days in the 12 months before her expected date of delivery.

Benefits of Maternity Leave Maternity leave offers several benefits:

  • Good Health and Well-being of Mother and Child: Maternity leave ensures that the mother and her baby are in good health by allowing the employee to focus on herself and the new life she is bringing into the world.
  • Better Employee Retention: Employers offering maternity benefits can increase their employee retention rate and gain trust and respect in the industry.
  • Legal Adherence: Employers must adhere to the Maternity Benefit Act, failing which can lead to fines and penalties.
  • Promotes Healthy Work-life Balance: Maternity leave promotes a healthy balance between personal and professional life.
  • Maintains a Positive Work Culture: Supporting maternity leave helps in fostering a positive work environment.

Maternity Leave Duration in India

  • Pre-natal Leave: 8 weeks
  • Post-natal Leave: 18 weeks
  • Total Maternity Leave (for up to 2 childbirths): 26 weeks
  • Total Maternity Leave (for the third or subsequent childbirth): 12 weeks
  • Leave for Miscarriage/Medical Termination: 12 weeks
  • Leave for Adopting/Commissioning Mothers: 12 weeks

The “Right to Pay” in Maternity Leave Policy The “Right to Pay” ensures that a pregnant employee receives financial compensation from the employer during her maternity leave. The rate of payment is based on the average daily wage of the employee before her absence from work.

Maternity Leave Rules in India

  • Employers must pay full wages to the employee on maternity leave based on her actual daily wages.
  • Employees should not be employed up to 6 weeks after delivery, miscarriage, or medical termination.
  • Employers must provide easily accessible childcare facilities and take care of pregnant employees’ needs.
  • Employers should not assign difficult tasks or longer working hours to pregnant employees.
  • Maternity leave application must be given to the employer before starting maternity leave.

Challenges Faced by Employers Employers face challenges such as limited resources, decreased productivity, higher employee drop-off rate, and maintaining a positive working environment when providing maternity leave.

Conclusion The Maternity Leave Policy in India, defined under the Maternity Benefit Act, offers necessary support for female employees during pregnancy and postpartum recovery. It ensures job security, financial compensation, and a healthy work-life balance. Employers must adhere to the Maternity Benefit Act to provide these benefits to their employees.


Can maternity leave be extended in India?

Maternity leave can be extended upon mutual agreement between the organisation and the employee, especially if the employee is struggling during her postpartum recovery phase.

Is maternity leave paid or unpaid?

Maternity leave in India is a paid leave, ensuring that employees receive financial compensation during their absence from work.

What if an employee wants to rejoin work before completing her maternity leave duration?

Employers cannot allow an employee to work until at least 6 weeks after giving birth, ensuring a faster recovery for the new mother.

Can an employee apply for maternity leave after experiencing a miscarriage?

Yes, the 2017 amendment to the Maternity Benefit Act extended maternity leave benefits to mothers who have undergone a miscarriage or medical termination of pregnancy.

Who pays for maternity leave in India?

Employers are responsible for providing financial support to employees during their maternity leave, ensuring they receive their full-time salary.

How to apply for maternity leave in India?

The applicant needs to submit a written application or notice to the employer or HR authorities before starting her maternity leave.

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