Maternity Relief for Women: Aim, Need and More

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Maternity Relief for Women: Aim, Need and More
28 Jul 2020

When we talk about gender equality or gender neutrality, we often come across the term “Maternity Relief/ Maternity Benefit” for women. By this term we simply mean, that the time period in which a woman gives birth to her child and some weeks following it are very crucial for her health, therefore some sort of job benefits should be provided to her, so that her pregnancy doesn’t affect her position in her job sphere.

These benefits include Maternity Leave up to 26 weeks. A woman is allowed to take rest at home during the period of her pregnancy, and her inability to join her work would not affect her pay. She shall be compensated constantly in that period.

These benefits are provided to women under the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act, 2017. As per this act, it is mandatory for all employers, to make sure that the women in their organization are well aware of their maternity rights.

Today we’ll learn that, what is the need for such benefits? Why these benefits are important? And what does the Indian Constitution have to offer in this matter. 

Aim of Maternity Benefits for Women

Maternity Relief is a basic requirement of working women. These benefits aim to achieve many objectives as listed below:

  • The major aim is to ensure equality among the men and the women. These benefits strive to achieve that atmosphere in the workplace, in which a woman does not have to be ashamed of her pregnancy. She would be made to feel that her pregnancy would not make her inferior than the others.
  • With the help of these benefits, a woman can take care of her child and her health without having fear of losing the job. These benefits ensure that a woman is provided equal opportunity to enjoy her job and her pregnancy does not become a hindrance in her Career.
  • These benefits aim to provide economic independence to women on a larger scale. For those months in which a woman gives birth to her child, she is not derived of her salary, which in return ensures that she does not feel economically incompetent.
  • One of the major aims is to ensure that the health of the new born or the mother is not affected due to her job responsibilities. We cannot expect a woman to appear for her job, the very next day after giving birth to her child. The child bearing process is extremely painful and it requires proper rest.

Need for Such Benefits

It is a human tendency that we love to ask “Why”. Same is the question here, why do we think that these benefits are important or what is the need of these benefits. Well! Let’s find some reasons, why these benefits are much needed in the society.

  • Before anything else, a woman needs proper time with her child. Child birth is a very exhausting process which affects the women at mental and physical and emotional level as well. To maintain herself, and to take good care of her child, it is necessary that she stays at home and does not run to the office the very next day.
  • There are thousands of women, who are the only earning member in her family. Imagine if she takes rest for 2 months, how she would survive without livelihood. Therefore it is important, that she is guaranteed economic rights in the form of maternity belief.
  • The very basic and foremost reason is to provide job stability to women. These benefits ensure that the employer would not terminate her employment during the course of her pregnancy period.
  • Suppose if we remove these maternity benefits and the women have to join the work after some days of their pregnancy, what would happen? Isn’t it apparent that her productivity would be very low and she might not be able to contribute in the company? Yes this is the de scenario, if these benefits are snatched from women, they will not show less productivity and they will of no much use for some time. 
  • Women are half of the parts of society who contribute more than anyone in various forms. They deserve due respect and dignity when it comes to giving birth of a child, who will be the brightest future of the nation as well.
  • These benefits are also needed to ensure that women do not feel incompetent or disable during their maternity period. They need to live this period proudly and come back with much motivation later. 

Directive Principles of State Policy and Analysis of these Benefits

In India, part IV of the Constitution talks about Directive Principles of State Policy which are the guiding principles for the state. The legislature has to keep in mind these principles while making any new legislation or implementing an older one.

Article 43 of the Constitution states that the state shall make provision to ensure maternity relief for women. This is not the only provision for maternity relief for women. If we look at a broader aspect, Article 14 (Equality before law), Article 15 (prohibition of Discrimination), Article 39(a) {Equal pay for equal work} etc. are number of provisions which ensure that women are given their due rights.

Apart from these Constitutional Provisions, the maternity relief is basically governed by the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961. The object of this act is to ensure that all the women are given complete opportunity to avail these rights. This act provides paid leaves, other privileges and saves the women from termination during maternity period.

Conclusion

When we analyze the statutory provisions of maternity relief in India and its practical implications, we see that a lot of work has been done and a lot needs to be done.

These benefits are very essential for women and they should be given due advantage of these benefits. There are some areas, where these benefits are still not provided in their complete form, major work is needed to be done in those areas.

Along with these, paternal leaves must also be provided to fathers, so that the complete responsibility of managing newborn does not falls on the shoulder of the mother alone. This will lead to a more equitable approach and would serve best for its purpose.