- The Supreme Court agreed to hear a petition challenging the constitutional validity of Section 5(4) of the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961.
Section 5(4) of the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961
- It states that a woman who legally adopts a child below three months old will be entitled to 12 weeks of maternity leave.
- The petition challenges Section 5(4) of the Act on grounds of being “discriminatory” and “arbitrary” towards adoptive mothers and orphaned children over three months.
Maternity Benefit Amendment Act 2017
- The original 1961 legislation did not have specific provisions for mothers who adopt.
- The Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act, 2017 amended Section 5 of the erstwhile Act to allow 26 weeks of paid leave after childbirth, although only to biological mothers.
- According to Section 5(4) of the amended Act, “A woman who legally adopts a child below the age of three months or a commissioning mother shall be entitled to maternity benefit for a period of twelve weeks from the date the child is handed over to the adopting mother or the commissioning mother, as the case may be.”
- The term commissioning mother would be the mother who seeks to obtain a child through a rented womb of a surrogate mother. However, the commission mother remains the biological mother of the child and retains all rights in respect of the child.
- Option to work from home: The Bill introduces a provision that states that an employer may permit a woman to work from home.
- Crèche facilities: The Bill introduces a provision which requires every establishment with 50 or more employees to provide crèche facilities within a prescribed distance. The woman will be allowed four visits to the crèche in a day. This will include her interval for rest.
- Informing women employees of the right to maternity leave.
- It applies to both organised and unorganized sector.