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The Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 is an Indian labor law that provides for maternity benefits and certain other employment-related benefits to women employees. Its primary aim is to protect the employment and maternity rights of women workers during and after pregnancy.

Here are the key provisions of the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961:

  1. Applicability: The act applies to every establishment employing ten or more persons and to every woman who has been employed for a minimum of 80 days in the preceding 12 months.
  2. Eligibility for Maternity Benefits: A woman is eligible for maternity benefits if she has worked in an establishment for a minimum of 80 days in the twelve months immediately preceding the date of her expected delivery.
  3. Duration of Maternity Leave: A woman is entitled to maternity leave of up to 26 weeks for her first two children. For subsequent children, the entitlement is for 12 weeks. In cases of miscarriage or medical termination of pregnancy, a woman is entitled to six weeks of leave.
  4. Payment During Maternity Leave: The employer is required to pay the woman on maternity leave at the rate of her average daily wage for the period of her leave.
  5. Notice of Pregnancy: A woman is required to give notice to her employer about her pregnancy and the expected date of delivery.
  6. Leave for Adoption or Commissioning Mothers: The act also provides for maternity leave for adoptive mothers and commissioning mothers (in cases of surrogacy).
  7. Prohibition on Dismissal or Termination: During the period of maternity leave, a woman cannot be dismissed from her employment or given notice of dismissal.
  8. Provision for Nursing Breaks: Every woman is entitled to two breaks in the day, with each break not exceeding 15 minutes, to breastfeed her child until the child attains the age of 15 months.
  9. Crèche Facilities: Establishments employing 50 or more employees are required to provide crèche facilities for working mothers.
  10. Prohibition of Employment of Pregnant or Nursing Women in Certain Conditions: Women who are pregnant or nursing are not allowed to do work of an arduous nature or work which involves long hours of standing.
  11. Penalties for Non-Compliance: Employers who do not comply with the provisions of the act may be subject to penalties, including fines and imprisonment.

The Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 aims to protect the rights of working women during a crucial phase in their lives. It is designed to ensure that women employees are provided with the necessary support and benefits to maintain their health and well-being during pregnancy and childbirth. This act plays a significant role in promoting gender equality in the workforce.