Maternity Leave in India 2024: Rules, Eligibility, Benefits & Challenges

  • postauthorEditorial Staff
  • postdateFebruary 21, 2024
  • postreadtime11 min read
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Maternity leave in India

Maternity leave is a crucial and compassionate aspect of employment policies that acknowledges the unique needs of working women during pregnancy, childbirth, and child care. Recognising the physiological and emotional demands placed on expectant and new mothers, India has implemented specific legal provisions to safeguard their rights and well-being in the workplace.

This blog aims to comprehensively explore the landscape of maternity leave in India, addressing legal frameworks, eligibility criteria, and challenges faced by both employees and employers.

Also, Read: Maternity Health Insurance

What is maternity leave?

Maternity leave is a sanctioned period of absence for working women employees in India, which they can utilise before and/or after delivering a child. The Maternity Benefit Act of 1961 outlines the regulations governing maternity leave in the country.

According to this Act, eligible women working in recognised organisations and factories can apply for maternity leave for a duration of up to 6 months. They have the flexibility to take this leave either before or after childbirth, and it can also extend across both periods.

During the maternity leave period, employers are obligated to pay the full salary to the woman employee. Additionally, apart from the standard maternity leave stipulated by the Maternity Benefit Act, private sector companies in India have the option to provide extended maternity leave as a benefit to their female employees.

The Maternity Benefit Act has undergone revisions over time to ensure the protection and well-being of women employees. The most recent update in the Maternity Benefit (amendment) Act 2017 expanded its scope to include work-from-home and hybrid work models. Furthermore, the Act allows new mothers to avail themselves of additional paid days off.

In essence, the Maternity Benefit Act in India plays a crucial role in supporting women employees both before and after childbirth. It serves to safeguard their interests, ensuring financial security during the maternity leave period, and promotes a conducive environment for the empowerment of women employees to nurture their newborns while taking care of their own well-being.

Quick Read: A Guide to Pregnancy Planning

Importance of maternity leave for working women employees

Maternity leave isn’t just a set of policies; it embodies a profound acknowledgment of the emotional and transformative journey that women employees undergo during pregnancy and early motherhood. Beyond its legal standing, it symbolises a commitment to recognising the unique needs of expectant and new mothers in the workforce.

This period is not just about physical recovery; it’s a sacred time for bonding with the newborn child, navigating the uncertainties of early parenthood, and experiencing the profound joy and challenges that come with it.

The purpose of this blog post is to provide comprehensive and up-to-date information on the legal framework, eligibility criteria, and various facets of maternity leave in India, empowering both working women and employers with valuable insights into this crucial aspect of workplace policies.

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Legal framework on maternity leave in India

The legal framework on maternity leave in India is primarily governed by the Maternity Benefit Act, which has undergone significant amendments to accommodate the evolving needs of working women. As of the latest available information, here’s an overview of the legal provisions related to maternity leave in India:

Maternity benefit act 1961:

The Maternity Benefit Act of 1961 was a landmark legislation aimed at safeguarding the rights of women employees during pregnancy, child birth and child care. It initially provided for 12 weeks of maternity leave, allowing women time to recover and care for their new-borns postpartum.

Maternity benefit act 2017:

In 2017, the Maternity Benefit Act underwent a substantial amendment, extending the maternity leave duration from 12 weeks to 26 weeks. This progressive step was taken to align with international standards and recognise the physical and emotional demands placed on women workers during this critical phase.

Key provisions: The Maternity Benefit Act outlines several key provisions related to maternity leave, including:

1. Duration:

The Act mandates a maternity leave duration of 26 weeks, providing a comprehensive period for expectant and new mothers to balance work and caregiving responsibilities.

2. Payment:

During the maternity leave period, women are entitled to receive their full salary, ensuring financial support during the time away from work.

3. Job security:

The legislation emphasises job security, ensuring that women returning from maternity leave are reinstated to their original positions with the same employment conditions.

4. Medical benefits:

Maternity leave includes provisions for medical benefits, covering expenses related to pre-natal and post-natal care. This is a way to ensure the empowerment of an organisation’s woman workforce.

5. Recent changes or amendments:

It’s essential to stay updated on any recent changes or amendments to the Maternity Benefit Act. Legislative changes may further refine or enhance maternity leave policies, and staying informed is crucial for both employers and employees.

6. Documentation and compliance:

Employers are required to adhere to the documentation and compliance aspects outlined in the Act. This may include the submission of medical certificates and other relevant documentation to ensure the legal and smooth implementation of maternity leave.

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Eligibility criteria for maternity leave in India

In India, the eligibility criteria for availing maternity leave are crucial components that ensure the fair distribution of benefits to deserving individuals. To delve deeper into this, it’s essential to comprehend the specific qualifications set forth by the Maternity Benefit Act.

1. Qualifying period:

To be eligible for maternity leave benefits, a woman must have completed a stipulated duration of continuous service with her employer. This qualifying period typically precedes her expected delivery date.

The Maternity Benefit Act outlines the minimum duration of service required, acknowledging the dedication and commitment of the employee to the organisation.

2. Duration of service:

The Act specifies the minimum number of months or years an employee must have worked to qualify for maternity leave. This duration acts as a measure of the employee’s commitment to the workplace, ensuring that those who have contributed significantly over time are eligible for the benefits that maternity leave offers.

3. Contributory factor:

Eligibility is tied to the employee’s contribution to the workplace. This contribution is not merely in terms of time served but also encompasses the value and dedication the employee has brought to the organisation.

It reflects the acknowledgment that maternity leave benefits are intended for those who have actively participated in the growth and success of the workplace.

4. Ensuring inclusivity:

The qualifying criteria are designed to be inclusive, recognising various professional scenarios. Whether an employee has been with the organisation for an extended period or has made significant contributions in a shorter timeframe, the eligibility criteria aim to encompass a diverse range of employment scenarios.

5. Legal compliance:

Understanding and adhering to the specific eligibility criteria outlined in the Maternity Benefit Act is crucial for both employees and employers.

Employers must ensure that they accurately assess and communicate these criteria to eligible employees, while employees should be aware of their entitlements and fulfil the necessary requirements to avail themselves of maternity leave benefits.

6. Role of employers:

Employers play a pivotal role in implementing and overseeing the eligibility criteria. They must transparently communicate these criteria to their workforce, fostering an environment where employees are aware of their rights and can confidently navigate the maternity leave application process.

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Maternity leave rules in India

The rules governing maternity leave in India encompass various aspects, including the timing of leave commencement, documentation requirements, and the provision of medical certificates.

Understanding these rules is essential for both employees and employers to ensure a seamless and legally compliant maternity leave process. Let’s delve into the intricacies of these rules:

1. Timing of leave commencement:

a) Anticipated commencement:

Maternity leave can commence before the delivery date, especially if there are medical reasons or concerns related to pregnant employees. Employees have the flexibility to plan the initiation of their maternity leave based on their health condition and the advice of medical professionals.

b) Post-delivery activation:

In cases where the commencement of maternity leave is not pre-planned, such as unexpected early deliveries, the rules allow for post-delivery initiation. This ensures that even unforeseen circumstances are accommodated within the regulatory framework.

2. Documentation requirements:

a) Medical certification:

The Maternity Benefit Act stipulates the requirement of a medical certificate confirming the pregnancy. This certificate, issued by a registered medical practitioner, serves as a crucial document substantiating the need for maternity leave.

b) Employer communication:

Employees are often required to formally communicate their intention to avail maternity leave to their employers. This communication may involve the submission of specific forms or letters, ensuring that the employer is adequately informed and can initiate the necessary processes.

3. Provision of medical certificates:

a) Pre-natal and Post-natal care:

The rules recognise the importance of medical care during both the pre-natal and post-natal phases. As such, medical certificates may be required at various intervals to confirm the need for ongoing maternity leave. This ensures that women receive the necessary medical support during this critical period.

b) Flexible approach:

The framework is designed to accommodate the evolving medical needs of the employee, allowing for flexibility in submitting medical certificates based on the progression of the pregnancy and postnatal recovery.

4. Employer compliance:

a) Awareness and implementation:

Employers play a pivotal role in ensuring awareness and compliance with these maternity leave rules. They are responsible for communicating these rules transparently to their workforce, establishing clear procedures for documentation submission, and facilitating a smooth transition for the employee.

b) Sensitivity and support:

Beyond legal compliance, employers are encouraged to approach maternity leave rules with sensitivity and support. Recognising the unique needs of women during this period contributes to a positive workplace culture that values the well-being of its employees.

Also, Read: What is Employer Employee Insurance?

Indian maternity leave policies across different sectors

Maternity leave policies may vary across different sectors, with distinctions between the private sector and public sectors companies that have government employees.

Private sector companies in India often have their maternity leave policies, which may offer additional benefits beyond the statutory requirements. Public sector organisations adhere to government guidelines, providing a standardised approach to maternity leave for their employees.

Maternity leave in India for private sector:

Private sector companies typically follow the statutory maternity leave provisions outlined in the Maternity Benefit Act. However, some organisations may offer enhanced benefits as part of their employee welfare programs. Understanding these policies is crucial for working women to make informed decisions about their maternity leave.

Maternity leave in India for public sector:

Public sector organisations, being government entities, adhere to the guidelines set by the government. This ensures uniformity in maternity leave provisions for women working in various government departments. Public sector employees can access maternity leave benefits in accordance with these guidelines.

Also, Read: The HR Guide to Maternity Leave Benefits

Maternity leave benefits in India

Maternity leave benefits in India encompass various elements, such as paid leave, job security, and medical benefits. Exploring each of these elements in detail helps women understand the comprehensive support available to them during this critical phase.

  • Paid leave: Maternity leave in India is typically paid, providing financial support to women during their absence from work.
  • Job security: The Maternity Benefit Act ensures that women returning from maternity leave are reinstated to their original positions with the same employment conditions.
  • Medical benefits: During maternity leave, women are entitled to medical benefits, including coverage for prenatal and postnatal care under their employer-offered healthcare plan.

Maternity leave challenges for employees

While maternity leave is a vital right, women often encounter challenges during this period. Financial constraints, career setbacks, and societal pressures are among the hurdles that need to be addressed to ensure a smooth transition into and out of maternity leave.

Addressing these challenges requires a multifaceted approach. Financial planning, open communication with employers, and a supportive social network are essential components that can help women overcome the challenges associated with maternity leave.

Maternity leave challenges for employers

Employers also face challenges when managing an employee’s maternity leave, such as workforce planning, temporary replacements, and maintaining productivity.

It’s essential for employers to develop strategies to address these challenges while ensuring a supportive and inclusive work environment.

Also, Read: Benefits of Paid Maternity Leave for Employers

Onsurity’s group health insurance for employees

Navigating the intricacies of maternity leave involves more than just legal considerations; it also entails addressing the broader spectrum of healthcare needs during this transformative period.

Onsurity’s Group Health Insurance emerges as a cornerstone in providing holistic support for employees, particularly during the pivotal phase of maternity leave.

Let’s delve into the overall benefits and features that make Onsurity’s offering stand out. The inclusions and exclusions are subject to the opted plan’s terms and conditions.

1. Prenatal care:

Onsurity’s Group Health Insurance recognises the importance of prenatal care and extends coverage for medical expenses related to regular check-ups, tests, and consultations during the antenatal period. This ensures that expectant mothers receive comprehensive healthcare support for pregnant employees from the initial stages of pregnancy.

2. Delivery costs:

The insurance coverage includes expenses incurred during the delivery process, encompassing hospitalisation costs, medical procedures, and associated medical bills. This feature alleviates financial burdens, allowing employees to focus on their health and the well-being of their new-borns.

3. Postnatal care:

Onsurity’s commitment extends beyond delivery to encompass postnatal care. Coverage for postnatal medical requirements, including consultations, medications, and follow-up visits, is part of the comprehensive support provided.

4. Efficient claim processing:

Onsurity streamlines the claims process, providing a user-friendly platform for employees to submit and track their claims. This efficiency minimises administrative hurdles, allowing employees to focus on their health and family without unnecessary paperwork hassles.

5. Transparent Communication:

Our insurance platform facilitates transparent communication about the claims process, ensuring that employees are well-informed about the status of their claims. This transparency builds trust and enhances the overall experience for employees during maternity leave.

Also, Read: Difference Between Network and Non-network Hospitals


Understanding the legal framework on maternity leave in India is vital for employers and employees alike. It not only ensures compliance with the law but also fosters a supportive workplace culture that recognises and values the well-being of women during this significant and special phase of life.

FAQs: Maternity leave in India

1. How long is the Indian maternity leave?

The maternity leave duration in India is 26 weeks, as per the Maternity Benefit Act 2017.

2. Is maternity leave increased to 9 months?

Maternity leave in India is 26 weeks (approximately 6.5 months). There is no official extension to 9 months.

3. What is the status of paid maternity leave in India?

The status of maternity leave in India is well-established and regulated by the Maternity Benefit Act, ensuring comprehensive benefits for eligible women.

4. How do I calculate 6 months of paid maternity leave?

To calculate 6 months of maternity leave, consider 26 weeks from the due date or date of child birth. The 6 months can be spread either after or divided between before and after childbirth.

5. Are maternity leaves paid in India?

Yes, maternity leave in India is typically paid, providing financial support to women during their absence from work.

6. What are the rules for paid maternity leave in India?

Maternity leave rules in India are governed by the Maternity Benefit Act, which outlines provisions for eligibility, duration, and other related aspects. A minimum of 80 days of employment in the 12 months before delivery or adoption is required.

7. Can a father take paid maternity leave in India?

As of now, maternity leave in India is specifically designed for mothers. However, some companies may offer paternity leave for fathers.

8. Is maternity leave 6 months in India?

Yes, maternity leave in India is 26 weeks, equivalent to approximately 6 months.

9. Do we get full salary in maternity leave?

The Maternity Benefit Act ensures that women receive their full salary during the maternity leave period.

10. What is Maternity Act 2023?

Maternity leave in India, a vital benefit for working women, offers indispensable time off during and after pregnancy, acknowledging the significance of supporting their well-being during this crucial life stage.

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