Understanding the Maternity Benefit Act

With the advent of modern age, as the number of women employees started growing, maternity leave and other maternity benefits became the need of the hour. 

Hence, the Maternity Benefit Act was legally introduced in India for the first time in the Bombay Legislative council  on  28th  July  1928,  Dr.B.R.Ambedkar  supported  and  defended  it.  

The  act  was enacted by Parliament in the 12th year of the Republic of India on 12th December 1961. The main objective of this act is to regulate the employment of the women for a certain  period  of  time before  and after  the  child  birth.  

Amendments to the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 

In the  year 2017,  Government of  India approved the  bill of amendment  to the  Maternity Benefit act, 1961. Following were the Amendments approved.  

  • Maternity benefit leave duration has increased from twelve weeks to twenty six weeks and it is not applicable for the mother having more than two children.
  • A  commissioning mother shall be entitled to maternity benefit for twelve weeks from the day she is handed the baby under commissioning or adoption.
  • Crèche facility should be provided if the establishment has more than fifty employees. Mother is allowed to crèche four times a day and the period of visit is considered as interval of break or rest.  
  • Based on the constraints in the organization, women have the facility to work at home after maternity  leave,  based  on  mutual  understanding  between  employee  and employer.  


The Act applies to mines, factories, circus, industry, plantation and shops and establishments employing ten or more persons, except employees covered under the Employees State Insurance act, 1948. 

It can be extended to other establishments by the state governments. There is no wage limit for coverage under the Act. The Central Government is an appropriate government in respect of the Circus Industry and Mines.


Women working in any organization for a minimum of 80 days in the previous year are eligible to get the Maternity Benefit.  The amount given to the pregnant women will be based upon the daily wages that they receive while working.

Global Standards

The UK and Australia offer one of the longest paid maternity benefits in the world, which stands at 52 weeks. In the UK, for the first 6 weeks, 90 percent of average weekly earnings is paid. Thereafter, a flat rate or 90 percent (whichever is less) is paid for weeks between 7-39. However, in the remaining weeks between 40-52, women don’t get any salary benefit.

As far as Australia goes, women get 18 weeks at the federal minimum wage level.

Canada, Brazil and South Africa offer 17 weeks of paid maternity leave. In percentage terms, women in Canada get 55 percent of their salary as paid benefit for 15 weeks. While in South Africa women get 60 percent of their wages, Brazil gives 100 percent of the wages to women during the leave period. China offers 14 weeks off with a 100 percent salary.

In fact some countries like the UK, South Africa, Singapore, Brazil, France and Australia also offer paternity leave. In the case of South Africa, the UK, and Australia, this leave is paid as well.

The source of funding for these paid maternity leave varies from country to country. For instance, in India the money comes from the employer. In Australia, and Canada it’s public funding. While other countries use either an insurance scheme or a mixed contribution of employer, employee and also the government in some cases.

It might surprise you but Papua New Guinea, Oman and the U.S. are the only countries on the planet that fail to offer some form of paid maternity leave for new mothers.

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