Maternity Leave during Pregnancy: Rules, Leave Duration & Rights

Maternity Leave and Maternity Benefit Act 2017

With the recent changes in the maternity leave laws of the country, there is a lot of new information to catch up on if you are planning a pregnancy. Here, we discuss in detail about the leaves you can avail during the period of being pregnant with a child, and other common queries on the topic.

What is Maternity Leave?

Maternity leave is a form of leave given to pregnant women to take care of the newborn child or children in the early stages of infancy. It also includes the last few weeks of pregnancy – termed as prenatal leave. For a period of the maternity break, the employee is entitled to full compensation from the establishment she works for.

The maternity leave policy in all Indian companies is drafted to adhere to the Maternity Leave Act (Amended 2017)

What is Maternity Leave Duration?

As per the amendment made to the Maternity Benefit Act in 2017, the maternity leave duration allowed is now 26 weeks, compared to the previous time period of 12 weeks. The duration allowed for prenatal leave is 12 weeks.

The leave duration allowed for women with two or more children is less – the maternity leave, in this case, is for 12 weeks and the prenatal leave is 6 weeks.

To be eligible for the Maternity Benefit Act, a woman must have been employed at the establishment for at least 80 days in the last 12 months.

In the unfortunate circumstance of a miscarriage, the employee is allowed 6 weeks leave, from the date of the incident.

When Can You Start Maternity Leave?

A pregnant employee can start her maternity leave up to 8 weeks before the delivery due date.

How to Apply for Maternity Leave?

How to Apply for Maternity Leave

Most companies have their own processes for leave application, including family leave and maternity leave. Maternity leave is usually applied a few weeks before the delivery due date. The Maternity Leave Act allows 8 weeks.

Are Both Paid and Unpaid Maternity Leave Allowed?


The extension of maternity leave depends on the circumstances that the mother or/and child may be facing. The period of 26 weeks, according to legislation is paid leave. Post the 26 weeks period, any leave (if granted by the employer) is usually considered as unpaid leave.

Do You Need to Pay Taxes When on Maternity Leave?

The pay that an employee receives during maternity leave will be considered for income tax, depending on the tax bracket she falls under.

Can You Extend Your Pregnancy Leave After 26 Weeks?

If the extension of the leave is required for health reasons, the employee can provide a proof of this requirement, with a certificate from a medical practitioner or an equivalent document. The establishment can ascertain the reasons and grant an extension accordingly. However, the Maternity Leave Act mandates full pay for only the 26 weeks prescribed.

What Will Happen Once Your Pregnancy Leave Period is Over?

What Will Happen Once Your Pregnancy Leave Period is Over

The latest amendment to the Maternity Leave Act also allows a provision where the employee can work from home, but this is dependent on the nature of the work.

Can Your Boss Fire You Because You Are Pregnant?

The answer is no. Pregnancy cannot be a reason to fire someone.

There have been many advances in laws and general workplace attitudes towards working women, and it is always prudent for working women to understand their rights when it comes to pregnancy and the workplace. Under the Maternity Benefit Act, it is illegal for an employer to terminate a worker’s contract or job because of pregnancy.

What Benefits Will You Get While You Are on Leave for Pregnancy?

While on maternity leave, employees are entitled to pay. The maternity compensation is calculated at her average daily earnings over a three-month period immediately before the leave begins.

Can You Get Maternity Leave for Adopting a Child or Taking in a Foster Child?

Maternity leave is available for mothers adopting a newborn (less than 3 months) and the duration is 12 weeks from the date of adoption. There is no provision for adoption of older children.

Do You Need Maternity Insurance and How Do You Get One?

Maternity Insurance

Childbirth is an expensive affair if you are choosing a private healthcare provider. Maternity coverage, in general, covers the related hospitalisation costs, pre and postnatal expenses during delivery, and also coverage for the newborn baby for the first 30 days. Most policies employ a waiting period of 2 to 4 years before you can claim maternity insurance, and some policies have waiting periods that extend to 6 years. The high premiums are offset by the fact that pregnancy is usually a controlled and planned event, which is a question of when rather than if. Most insurance providers that offer maternity plans can be contacted through regular channels like online aggregators and personal visits.

What if You Don’t Go Back to Work After Maternity Leave is Over?

If you do not go back to work after maternity leave without a justification submitted to your employer, you will not have the right to compensation, as the Act mandates pay for the 26 week period only.

What Are the Other Benefits Entitled to Pregnant Woman?

The Maternity Benefit Act also states that in the 10 weeks leading up to the delivery date, no pregnant employee should be compelled to do arduous tasks that may affect the welfare of both mother and child.

If the concerned employee works in an establishment with more than 50 employees, then she has the right to crèche facility access when she returns to her job.

What is Maternity Benefit Act 2017?

Maternity leave laws are essential in any legal framework to protect the rights of employees. Maternity leave rights include pay, compassion from the employer, and certain privileges for the pregnant employee. In India, the Maternity Benefit Act 1961 entitles a female employee the time and resources to take care of her child. The latest amendments to the act, the Maternity Benefit Act 2017, have increased the maternity leave from 12 to 26 weeks, 8 till the date of delivery and 18 post-childbirth.

The amendments have also expanded the scope of the act. Maternity leave for adoptive and surrogate mothers has also come under the ambit of the act. Access to crèche facilities for mothers working in an organisation with 50 or more people has also become mandatory per the Maternity Benefit Act 2017.

The mandate of the Act also includes education of women employees on their maternity rights and benefits at the workplace.

Why is Maternity Leave Important?

Becoming a mother is a big decision that comes with huge responsibilities. Though the journey of caring for a child is largely a joyful one, there are also moments where the baby’s well-being trumps the physical and mental health of parents. Hence, maternity leave comes with numerous advantages that benefit both, mother and child.

1. Health Benefits For the Baby

Since the first year is essential for the development and well-being of the baby, maternal leave allows mothers to care for their children, without financial burdens worrying them. Thus, infants are stronger and happier.

2. Psychological Well-Being of the Mother

Women who are provided maternity leave have a lower chance of post-partum depression, as they are always with their child, preventing feelings such as guilt, worry, or sadness from surfacing.

3. Retains Women in the Workforce

Maternity leave allows women to return to the employer, once their leave duration is up. This allows employers to retain women employees who greatly contribute to the company’s progress.

In a competitive economic landscape where women have often borne the brunt of unfair work practices, it is imperative that a young mother knows her rights as she balances raising a child with her vocational responsibilities. Legally speaking, India ranks well in comparison with most parts of the world when it comes to maternity leave durations. However, in reality, particularly in private and unorganised sectors, this record is woeful. Therefore, knowing your (or your loved ones) maternity leave rights is an important step in the right direction.

Also Read: How to Prepare for Going Back to Work After Maternity Leave

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