Recently, the Defence Minister of India, Rajnath Singh, announced that women soldiers in the tri-services– soldiers, sailors and air warriors will also be covered under the maternity benefits scheme. He said that under the new rules for maternity, child care and child adoption leaves, the grant of leaves for all women in the military will be equal regardless of their rank. Under the Agnipath model, the military seeks to recruit women soldiers for four years, with a provision to retain 25% of them in regular service for 15 more years, after fresh screening. These recruits are called Agniveers. This new rule will help induct more women in the services.
In this Weekly, let’s see what are maternity benefits in India and what does the law say about these benefits for women soldiers?
What is Maternity Benefit?
Maternity benefit is the amount an employer pays a woman when she is going to have a child. It helps protect the rights of women employees during pregnancy and provides them with paid leave. This allows them to take pregnancy leave without negative consequences. The Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 lays down the law for providing fully paid leaves to mothers and mothers-to-be from employment along with certain other benefits.
The landmark case of Mamta v. Employee State Insurance Corporation in 2014, established that female employees are entitled to maternity benefits from their employers. This decision was made based on the recognition that childbirth and the care of newborns in their early stages of life are fundamental rights of both the mother and child.
Who is eligible for Maternity Benefits?
You can seek maternity benefits if you are a woman and if you are:
- Pregnant for the first time
- Pregnant with one child or 2 children already
- Adopting a child below the age of 3 months
- Having a child through a surrogate
- Recovering from a miscarriage, abortion or tubectomy operation
In 2017, the Maternity Benefit Act was amended to reduce the minimum duration that women can take leave for maternity benefits. Before the amendment, women needed to take a minimum leave of 160 days to avail of maternity benefits. This duration has now been reduced to 80 days, allowing women to return to work earlier if they choose to. This change has been implemented to support women in maintaining a work-life balance while also ensuring the well-being of their children.
Span of Leave Permitted
||Up to 2 surviving children
||More than 2 children
||Adoption of a child below 3 months from the date of handover
||Suffering any illness caused due to pregnancy, miscarriage, etc.
Maternity Benefits to Women Soldiers
According to the Central Civil Services (Leave) Rules, 1972, women employees who are entitled to maternity benefits can combine it with any other kind of leave they are eligible for, thereby offering them flexibility in terms of availing of the benefits.
Women officers in the three services currently are eligible for 180 days of maternity leave, which can be extended by a month of leave without pay in exceptional cases and 30 days of leave in cases of miscarriage or abortion.
Women officers are eligible for 180 days of leave in case they adopt a child below the age of one year.
Permanent commission women officers are also eligible for 360 days of child care leave.
Short service commission women officers are eligible for 180 days of leave.