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Maternity Leave in India 2023 : Rules, Importance & Benefits

Team AckoFeb 27, 2024

Maternity Leave in India

Pregnancy is a sacred time when a mother and her child bond while the child is developing, but this extends far beyond that. The journey from pregnancy to motherhood is something that every new mom wants to cherish.

However, what about soon-to-be mothers in the workforce, who are looking forward to embarking on their journey of motherhood. The support that Indian mothers receive, before and after they have a child, is ingrained in our Indian culture. Therefore, it makes sense to have the same focus on motherhood, even at the workplace. This is possible only with the Maternity Benefit Act sanctioned by the Indian government, which allows soon-to-be mothers to focus on their family, and take some time from work, in the form of maternity leave.

Maternity leave is a work-sanctioned period of absence that working women can utilise before and/or after they deliver a child. The Maternity Benefit Act of 1961 lays down the rules and regulations that concern maternity leave in India. In this Maternity Act, women who are eligible to take a maternity leave and who work at recognized organisations and factories can apply for maternity leave for up to 6 months. Women employees can take their maternity leave either before or after they deliver their child. Their maternity leave can also span a period before and after their delivery as well. During this leave period, the woman's employer is required to pay the woman employee her salary in its entirety.

In addition to the standard maternity leave rules in India, employers can provide further maternity leave as a benefit to their women employees. The Maternity Benefit Act has been updated several times to safeguard and protect the interests of their women employees. This Act was updated as recently as 2017, and covers work from home or hybrid work models, in addition to allowing new mothers additional paid days off. 

The Maternity Benefit Act in India supports women before and after the birth of their child. It safeguards and protects their interests and livelihood, and allows them to nurture their newborns while taking care of themselves.




Maternity Leave in India: Rules, Eligibility and Benefits

The Maternity Benefit Act 1961 applies to all women employed in factories, mines, plantations, and organisations with 10 or more employees. Learn more about eligibility for maternity leave in India in this section.

Maternity Leave Eligibility

Prerequisite for Proof of Work 

The Maternity Benefit Act 1961 states that a woman should have worked with her employer for at least 80 days in the 12 months preceding the date of her expected delivery. If she fulfils this requirement, then she can utilise this mandated maternity leave and any further leave or benefits that her employer provides her. 

Eligibility of Motherhood in India 

All women who are pregnant, adopting a child, or experiencing a miscarriage are eligible for maternity leave in India, as they fulfil the criteria that determine the categories of motherhood in India. Commissioning, or surrogate mothers, are also entitled to up to 26 weeks of maternity leave which starts from the day the newborn is handed over to the adoptive parents. 

  • Pregnant women 

  • Women adopting a child 

  • Women who experience a miscarriage 

  • Surrogate or commissioning mothers 

Companies and Fields Covered in Maternity Leave 

Maternity Leave in India is available to women employees in the public and private sectors. Their rights are protected under the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961. The Maternity Act covers all establishments that employ 10 or more people, and provides for the payment of maternity benefit to female employees when they need to use their maternity leave while they are pregnant or during childbirth and beyond.

However, the Indian Maternity Benefit Act, does not apply to women who are self-employed, or at workplaces that have less than 10 employees. 

Maternity Leave Benefits

Maternity Leave Period 

A woman employee can use her maternity leave in India for a certain period of time, when she will receive her full salary while she is away fulfilling her maternal obligations and duties. 

For first and second-time mothers, the Maternity Benefit Act 1961 states that she can take 6 months, or 26 weeks, off. With every subsequent child, the mother can avail 3 months, or 12 weeks, off for her maternity leave, which is a paid leave wherein her employer needs to pay her salary in full.

Further Maternity Leave Benefits 

The Maternity Benefit Act ensures the holistic wellbeing of mothers and their babies. To This end, the Maternity Benefit Act provides mothers with provisions for child care, and the employee can go back to her previous post when she returns from her maternity leave.

A woman employee might not be able to return to work as soon as expected after her maternity leave period. Motherhood will and can take an emotional, physical, and mental toll on new mothers in particular. As stipulated by the Maternity Benefit Act 1961, her employer has to grant her additional leave days until she is able to return. This will not only ensure that her wellbeing and her baby's are secured, but also that she is able to return to a workplace that supports and assists her on this big transition. Whether a woman is a first-time mother or a seasoned parent, it is always an added benefit to have the support of her employer. To protect the livelihood of expectant mothers and those with newborns, the Maternity Benefit Act 1961 states that employers cannot fire or dismiss their women employees solely because they are pregnant, going through labour, or recuperating post-childbirth.

Pregnant Employee Benefits 

Pregnant employees need extra care, which is outlined in the Maternity Benefit Act 1961. To ensure that pregnant women are able to work in a safe and healthy manner, their workplace has to provide certain amenities such as hygienic rest rooms, comfortable seating or working arrangements, and safe drinking water. 

What is ‘Right to Payment’ under Maternity Leave in India?

The "Right to Payment in Maternity Benefit" refers to the entitlement of a pregnant woman to receive financial compensation or benefits when they are unable to work due to pregnancy and childbirth. This right ensures that women can take time off from work to recover from childbirth and care for their newborn child without facing financial hardship. Here's a breakdown of the key components of the Right to Payment in Maternity Benefit.

  • Entitlement: Every woman who meets the eligibility criteria has the right to receive maternity benefit.

  • Financial Compensation: Maternity benefit involves financial compensation paid to the pregnant woman by her employer or a relevant government authority. The compensation is aimed at replacing a portion of the woman's regular income during her absence from work due to maternity leave.

  • Rate of Payment: The rate of payment is usually based on the woman's average daily wage. This wage is calculated based on the woman's earnings for the days she worked over a specified period before her maternity leave. The benefit amount is often a percentage of this average daily wage.

  • Legal Protection: The right to payment in maternity benefits is often protected by labour laws or other legal frameworks. Employers are obligated to adhere to these laws and provide the entitled benefits to eligible women.

Understanding the Maternity Benefit Act 1961

The Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 set the groundwork for establishing maternity leave eligibility, requirements, and benefits for women employees in India. With the passing of time, the family structure and the definition of motherhood changes, making it incumbent to update the Maternity Benefit Act with the times.

The latest amendment in 2017 paved the way for the Maternity Benefit (Amended) Act, 2017. This updated maternity policy includes beneficial changes such as increasing the period of maternity leave from 12 weeks, to 26 weeks. Extending maternity leave is in the interests of mothers, their children, and the mother's organisation. A supported mother is an asset to her company, and will be quick to respond to projects, deadlines, and work commitments over a tired mother who has to quickly bounce back and return to the workforce.

Importance of Maternity Leave in India

Maternity leave in India offers pregnant women and mothers time off from work to care for their health and well-being during pregnancy, childbirth, and the postpartum period. It also helps to promote gender equality in the workplace by allowing women to take time off to care for their newborns without worrying about losing their jobs or income.

In India, the Maternity Benefit Act of 1961 requires employers to provide women with paid maternity leave for a certain number of weeks. The length of the leave varies depending on the number of children the woman is giving birth to, but it is generally around 12 weeks. This leave can be taken before or after the birth of the child, or a combination of both.

With maternity leave, women can focus on their physical and emotional health during pregnancy, childbirth, surrogacy and adoption. It helps them bond with their newborns and to establish breastfeeding, which has numerous health benefits for both the mother and the child. Additionally, maternity leave helps to reduce the risk of complications during pregnancy and childbirth, and it can also help to improve the overall health of both the mother and her child.

Maternity Leave Policy Rules in India

Maternity leave policy in India covers the full salary by the employer, the amount of time the mother can benefit from the maternity leave, and further benefits. The Indian Maternity Benefit (Amended) Act 2017 states that a woman employee will be compensated during her maternity leave in full. This rate is calculated according to her salary or daily wages in the 3 months preceding her maternity leave request. As outlined above, the mother should have worked at her workplace for a minimum of 80 days in the 12 months before her delivery date or adoption date.

A woman employee can take up to a maximum of 26 weeks off on her maternity leave depending on whether this is her first or subsequent child. She can use up to 8 weeks off before her delivery, out of her stipulated 26 weeks maternity leave. The mother does not need to utilise her maternity leave in this way, but can opt to use it from the time she adopts her child, or delivers the child. Most mothers choose to take some time off before the delivery or adoption however, with a majority of the maternity leave falling after she meets her child. 

Benefits of Maternity Leave in India

In India, maternity leave is a legal right provided to women who are expecting or have recently given birth. It is intended to provide time for new mothers to recover from childbirth and bond with their newborn babies. Maternity leave also allows women to continue their employment while taking time off to care for their families.

Health Benefits 

Maternity leave allows new mothers to take time off to physically recover from childbirth and take care of their own health.

Establish Bond with Newborn

Maternity leave allows new mothers to spend time with their newborns, which is important for bonding and attachment. This stage of a baby's life is key in establishing a happy, healthy, and well-rounded child to blossom into a flourishing adult. 

Job Security

Maternity leave allows women to continue their employment while taking time off to care for their families, which can help to maintain their career progression.

Overall, maternity leave is an important benefit for women in India, as it helps to support the health and well-being of new mothers and their families, and promotes gender equality in the workplace.

HR Maternity Leave Policy

The latest amendments to the Maternity Benefit Act made way for the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act 2017. Rajya Sabha passed the updated maternity leave rules and regulations in 2016, and the Act was approved in 2017. These updates take into consideration changing family structures, breakthroughs in the definition of motherhood, and improved well being of mothers and their children. 

Notable amendments to the Maternity Benefit Act 1961:

1. The former paid maternity leave in India was increased from 12 weeks to 26 weeks for women employees 

3. The pre-natal leave has increased from 6 weeks to 8 weeks

4. A woman who currently has 2 children and is applying for maternity leave for her 3rd child, or subsequent children, is eligible for 12 weeks of maternity leave 

5. When a woman employee adopts a child under 3 months old, she is eligible for maternity leave of 12 weeks

6. Commissioning, or surrogate mothers, are entitled to 12 weeks of maternity leave which starts from the day the newborn is handed over to the adoptive parents

Maternity Leave Challenges for Employers

Although the Maternity Benefit Act in India safeguards the interests of mothers and their babies, the mother's employer may find it difficult to operate without her expertise while she is away. Employers without HR policies covering maternity leave, or that do not have a contingency plan tend to suffer the repercussions, even if temporary, while their woman employee is on her maternity leave. 

Strain on Resources

A clear issue for employers with one or more women employees on maternity leave is that they will face a considerable strain on resources. Covering for an employee's temporary absence can hinder progress, because other resources may be employed as a stop-gap measure. Some companies may hire freelance or contract workers to fill in temporarily, but these resources may not be on par with their women employees. 

Decreased Work and Productivity

As mentioned above, the temporary void that a woman employee leaves when she is on maternity leave can affect a company. Usually, entities that are not prepared for such situations, or organisations with insufficient or poor HR policies concerning maternity leave policies will suffer the most. Workloads may increase as remaining resources try to cope up with new or alien job roles and responsibilities, which subtracts from productivity. 

Retaining Top Talent

Companies without supportive maternity leave policies in India will find it challenging to hire and retain top talent. In a post-pandemic work culture, many mothers choose to work remote, or in a flexible hybrid model for better work-life balance and raising a family. A company that cannot support their goals and aspirations will be dropped in favour of one that does. 

Uneven Distribution of Work

Although it may not be discussed directly, maternity leave in India can impact morale at the workplace. Employees who may not be eligible for maternity leave may feel resentful towards the pregnant mother, or new mother. This is especially true if the employees feel like they are taking up the slack with added responsibilities, or if they feel that the workload is not being fairly distributed.

ACKO GMC Health Insurance

Maternity leave in India 2023 is an essential benefit for working women, providing them with the necessary time off during and after pregnancy. While some employers may offer health insurance coverage for maternity, it's important to note that Acko currently does not provide any individual health insurance plans that specifically cover maternity. However, Acko does offer group medical cover that may include maternity benefits for employees covered under the plan.

Also, Explore: Travel Medical Insurance


Here are some answers to the most asked frequent questions related to maternity leave policy in India.


Is maternity leave a paid leave in India?

Yes, the employer is obliged to offer a paid leave when an employee takes a maternity leave subject to eligibility.

How many months is maternity leave in India?

For first and second-time mothers, the Indian Maternity Benefit Act 1961 states that she can take 6 months, or 26 weeks, off. With every subsequent child, the mother can avail 3 months, or 12 weeks, off for her maternity leave, which is a paid leave wherein her employer needs to pay her in full.

Will I get a salary during maternity leave?

Yes, according to the Indian Maternity Benefit Act 1961, you are entitled to your full salary for the duration of your maternity leave. Your employer cannot hire, nor discriminate against you solely because you are pregnant or have delivered a child. 

When does maternity leave start?

Women employees who wish to use their maternity leave in India can do so if they have worked at their company for at least 80 days in the 12 months before their delivery or adoption date. Although there is no set date when an employee can take her maternity leave, she can take 26 weeks off for her first 2 children, and 12 weeks off for subsequent children. She must avail her maternity leave within 6 months of her delivery date.

Are employees eligible for employee benefits during maternity leave?

In addition to the Maternity Leave and Benefits listed in this article, women employees in India can also receive standard employee benefits when they are off, on their maternity leave. She can avail applicable company benefits to employees including medical insurance, housing allowance, and other perks and allowances. 

Who pays for maternity leave?

Maternity leave in India is paid by employers to their expectant or newly-delivered women employees. The employer needs to pay the female employee her full salary during the entire time she is on maternity leave. In addition, the employee can provide further maternity benefits or leave days according to her employment contract or applicable laws.


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