Maternity Leave Applies to Contractual Employees Too, Rules Karnataka HC
Contractual employees in India are entitled to maternity benefits, since the Maternity Benefits Act doesn’t delineate rights based on how a worker is classified, the Karnataka High Court ruled this month.
B.S. Rajeshwari, who was employed on the basis of an annually-renewed contract by the Directorate of Municipal Administration in Bengaluru, had approached the court. Her petition stated that despite seeking maternity leave in June 2019, she was asked to report to work. And in her absence, in August 2019, the municipal authorities cancelled the contract, terminating her employment.
The court summed up the plea of the petitioner as: “I chose motherhood; the State chose to terminate me.”
Ruling that the law is the same for all, and would therefore apply to contractual employees as well, the court observed that “maternity or the [Maternity Benefits Act] does not classify or qualify a mother to be, a government servant, temporary employee, [an] employee on contract basis or an employee on daily wages.”
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Justice M. Nagaprasanna, who heard the petition, passed an order stating that the petitioner should be reinstated to her previously held post within two weeks — with 50% back wages from the date of cancellation of her appointment, to the date of her reinstatement.
In addition, the court also ordered the state government to pay her exemplary costs of Rs. 25,000 — to set an example that could act as a deterrent to such treatment of women in the future.
Criticizing the officer who terminated the petitioner’s employment and put her through this ordeal, the judge noted that “men who man such offices become insensitive to the issue of the kind that is alleged in the petition, it would become ‘power at wrong hands.'”
Under the Maternity Benefits Act, a pregnant woman in India is entitled to a paid maternity leave for a period of 26 weeks.