Women Cannot Avail Maternity Benefits For The 3rd Child If They Have Twins The First Time. This Makes No Sense
Almost three years ago, the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act came into being giving women 26 weeks of maternity leave as opposed to 12 weeks in the past. This was obviously more good news. You know, over and above the original good news (no, not the movie). According to the act, a woman can avail maternity benefits for two deliveries and one would assume that it is two pregnancies we are talking about here. That’s true in most cases, unless a woman is giving birth to twins.
The Madras High Court made an exception here ruling that if a working woman gives birth to twins, she will not be able to avail maternity benefits in the next delivery.
The court pointed out that since the second delivery would be of the third child, it will be considered the third delivery and not the second. “As per existing rules, a woman can avail such benefits only for her first two deliveries. Even otherwise it is debatable as to whether the delivery is not a second delivery but a third one, inasmuch as ordinarily when twins are born they are delivered one after another, and their age and their inter-se elderly status is also determined by virtue of the gap of time between their arrivals, which amounts to two deliveries and not one simultaneous act,” the court said.
This ruling happened after a judge had given a CISF woman employee 180 days of maternity leave under the rules governing the Tamil Nadu state government. The Ministry of Home Affairs had opposed that and said that since she is a member of CISF, her maternity benefits should be according to the Central Civil Services rules and Tamil Nadu state government’s.
A bench comprising of Chief Justice A P Sahi and Justice Subramonium Prasad on hearing this case found that technically it’s her third delivery, so the maternity benefits don’t even apply. “This fact, therefore, changes the entire nature of the relief which is sought for by the woman petitioner, which aspect has been completely overlooked by the single judge”, the bench said.
While I get that the act says that maternity leave applies for the first two children, I feel that it is rather flawed. Ask any woman and she will tell you that it should be for the first two pregnancies. Even if a woman had twins the first time, it was just one pregnancy and one time availing of the maternity benefits. Since the maternity leave is mainly for pre and post delivery care, it should be based on pregnancy and not the number of children born. Also, is the woman expected to join work immediately after giving birth to the 3rd child? This makes no sense. The time and work commitment from a mother isn’t reduced because this is her third child. The theory holds no water.
Even with the maternity act, things have not been looking up for women because if a survey is to be believed, 60% of employers prefer hiring male employees because of this very act. And if women are losing their chance of getting hired in the first place, maternity leaves and how much it we should get becomes a redundant argument.