Labour Investigation Committee (1946)||
The first provincial law in this field was the Bombay Maternity Benefit Act of 1929 and this was followed by the C. P. Maternity Benefit Act of 1930. As a result of the Royal Commission's recommendation on the subject, Maternity Benefit Acts were passed in Madras, U.P., Bengal Punjab, and Assam. The Central Government also passed a Mines Maternity Benefit Act in 1941 extending maternity benefits to women employed in mines. The Act which came into force in December 1942 is the first instance of a Central measure dealing with maternity benefits. The Bombay Act Was adopted with some modifications by Ajmer-Merwara in 1933 and by Delhi in 1937. Sind adopted it at the time of separation and amended it in 1939. The Bengal Maternity Benefits (Tea Estates) Bill, 1941, was introduced by the Bengal Government with a view to regulating maternity benefits for women workers in tea factories and plantations in accordance with the recommendations of the Royal Commission. The Bill has been passed by the local Legislative Council but is still before the Legislative Assembly. A draft Materinity Benefit Bill is under the consideration' of the Bihar Government.
A comparative table showing the qualifying period, maximum period of benefits and, the rate of benefits in the various Acts is given below:—
Qualifying period, maximum period of Benefit and rate of Benefits in the various Provinces and in Mines
|Province||Year in which the Act was passed||Qualifying period (Months)||Maximum period for maternity benefits (Weeks)||Rate of Maternity benefits|
|Bombay||1929||9||8||8 annas a day or average daily wages whichever is less. But in the Cities of Bombay and Ahmedabad 8 annas a day.|
|C.P.Berar||1930||9||8||8 annas a day or average wages whichever is less.|
within a period of one year.
|7||8 annas a day.|
|U.P.||1938||6||8||8 annas a day or average dailywages whichever is low.|
|Punjab||1943||9||60days||12 annas a day.|
|Mines(under the Indian Mines Maternity Benefit Act)||1941||6|| 8
|12 annas a day for surface workers.
Rs. 6 a week for underground workers.
|Assam||1944||150 days (nil in the case of immigrant woman).||8||1). In plantations Re.1 per week for 4 weeks
before delivery and Rs.1-4-0 per week for 4 weeks after delivery, provided the total cash
payment is Rs.14.
2). In other employments Rs. 2 per week or average weely wage or salary whichever is greater.
The industrially advanced States have also passed Maternity Benefit Acts which are based on the legislation in British India. The Mysore Maternity Benefit Act, 1937 and the Indore Maternity Benefit Act, 1936, follow the general principles of the Bombay Act. The Bombay Act was also adopted by the Baroda State in 1936 with certain modifications. The rate of benefit in Baroda is As 6 against, As. 8 in the Bombay Act. The Gwalior-Maternity Benefit Act of 1942 provides, the benefit for the maximum period of 8 weeks at the rate of the woman's average daily earnings calculated on the total wages earned on the days when full-time work was done during a period of three months immediately preceding the date on which the notice was given by her. Cochin followed the Madras Act with some modifications in 1938. The rate of benefit in the Cochin Act is only As. 3 against As. 8, the qualifying period is 12 months as against 240 days and the maximum period for maternity benefit is 8 weeks in Cochin against 7 in the Madras Act.
The main defects of maternity benefits legislation are that it is neither uniform nor universal, that there is no provision for free medical aid before, during and after confinement except in a few provinces like Sind and Assam and that there is no provision for preventing an employer from dismissing a woman worker on the first sign of pregnancy except in a few provinces like Madras and Bengal.1 In Madras, no notice of dismissal, given without sufficient cause by an employer to a woman within a period of 5 months before her confinement, shall have the effect of depriving her of maternity benefit, while in Bengal the prohibited period is 6 months. The U. P. Act and the Assam Act have one or two special features which may be mentioned. The U. P.
FN Cf. Prof. Adarkar's Report on Health Insurance p. 205.
Act grants in addition to the ordinary benefit a bonus of Rs. 5 to a woman worker who avails herself of the services of a qualified midwife or a trained woman health visitor at the time other confinement as also 3 weeks' leave with wages in cases of miscarriage. Women workers with children less than a year old are also granted two extra intervals of half an hour each every day for feeding the children. These additional intervals count as work and full pay is payable for the same. Under the Assam Act, when a woman declines to accept free medical treatment provided by the employer, no maternity benefit is admissible.
When the Acts were first put into force a number of employers dismissed their women workers but, broadly speaking, there is an improvement in this matter. Employers in many cases still, however, show a preference for the employment of unmarried girls, widows and women past child-bearing age. The Textile Labour Association, Ahmedabad, reports a case where an unmarried woman was discharged after her marriage for no fault on her part the management stating that it had given her to understand at the time of employment that she would be discharged after marriage.
Many women workers do not claim maternity benefits on account of their ignorance. Though the Royal Commission recommended (Report p. 265) that the administration of the Act should be wherever possible, entrusted to women factory inspectors, no such appointment has been made in most of the provinces. The women workers usually find it difficult to comply with the following requirements of the law mainly due to their ignorance:—
(1) To give timely notice to the employer.
(2) To put in the, qualifying period of service.
(3) To resume duty immediately after four weeks of the confinement.
(4) To obtain the birth certificate for claiming the benefits.
The Indian Jute Mills Association states in its reply, "the Act has been successful to a limited extent. It has been found from experience and enquiry at a number of. mills that very few women are able to enjoy the four weeks relief prior to delivery under the Act. A number of women take two months leave before confinement and are paid for 4 weeks only but in the case of those women who cannot afford to do so, it happens that they have premature delivery (due to the strain of long hours of standing, etc.) and therefore very rarely are they able to get 4 weeks leave with pay prior to delivery."
The All-India Trade Union Congress states in its reply, "The latest example is the dismissal of various pregnant women workers by mine-owners in Gudur District upon representations made by the Mica Miners' Union to pay them maternity benefit under the Mines Maternity Benefit Act". Some others refuse to grant leave to pregnant women even for casual sickness or such other cause and then hold that there has been no continuous qualifying period of service. Breaks in continuity of service due to strikes, "playing off" or casual absence should not deprive a woman worker of her maternity benefits. On the other hand, it must be mentioned that some enlightened employers often extend the benefit to cases which have not fulfilled all the conditions laid down in the law. Similarly, although there are no Maternity Benefit Acts in any plantation areas, except Assam where it has been enforced only since September 1945, the planters generally give the benefit of varying amounts partly in cash and partly in kind. At the instance of the Bombay Government, member-mills of the Bombay Millowner's Association and some
other employers in the Bombay Province have been paying from 1942 a surcharge of 50 per cent of the total amount payable as 'maternity benefit for the duration of the war and 3 months thereafter. Although the Maternity Benefit Act does not apply to municipal labour, some of the municipalities pay benefits and grant leave.
The cash benefits payable and the period for which they are payable are not adequate. The Madras Government states that the benefit of 8 annas per day may be raised to 12 annas per day or the average daily earning of a worker whichever is higher. The Bengal Government considers that the amount of benefit should be adjusted to the cost of living obtaining at the time of claim, although the payment should be basically a flat rate and not de-pendent upon a calculated average of previous earnings, The Chief Inspector of Factories, C.I.P & Berar, suggests that, provision may be, made for payment of benefit at enhanced rates than average wages wages if recommended by medical authorities on grounds (of health. The All India Trade Union Congress suggests that the cash benefits should not be less than the actual average, wage of the employee and that the minimum period for which benefits are paid should be 6 weeks before and 6 weeks after me confinement. "The Indian Jute Mills Association considers that both, the cash benefits and the period for which they are payable are not adequate and that the period of 4 weeks with pay pre- ceding delivery should be altered to 6 weeks at least, if not 8 weeks. We suggest that the benefit should not be less than the actual average wage of the women and that the period should be extended to 12 weeks, that is, six weeks before and six, weeks after confinement as recommended in the I. L. 0. convention.
A few big concerns like cotton and jute mills and a few tea estates have maternity clinics where ante and post-natal treatment is given to women workers. But on The whole maternity clinics. for women workers may be said to be non-existent. The Indian Jute Mills Association aptly states, "in the absence of compulsory and free maternity clinics, expectant mothers are not given the care and attention they merit and the objects of the Maternity Benefit Act are not fully secured, viz., healthy babies and mothers".
Evasion of the Act by discharging pregnant women workers is particularly noticeable in glass and match factories and in tanneries. In some of the smaller tanneries of Cawnpore it 'was found that the names of women workers were not entered in the registers. There were also complaints that women, were employed through contractors in order to evade the Act. In Coir Mats and Matting industry in Travancore no maternity benefit was paid in several factories, not because no case had arisen, but because the women workers were, until recent, unconscious of their rights.
The working of the Act is most defective in seasonal factories, like rice mills, and cotton ginning and baling, etc. The Act is not at all respected in the rice mills, in spite of the fact that there are large numbers of women employed everywhere. The employers do not maintain any service registers and refuse to pay the benefit on the pretext that the women worker has not satisfied the qualifying period of 9 months. The main loop-hole in seasonal factories is that the qualifying period is not fulfilled and we suggest that it might be reduced to four months.
Assurance of the benefit to women employed through contractors depends to a large extent upon the accurate maintenance by them of the Registers of Workers and Wages under the Factories Act and the payment of Wages Act respectively, and until that is secured contract labour will be deprived of the protection of the Act.