Can a pregnant woman be fired? Benefits given in the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961.

In the Corporate office a pregnant lady is discussing to his HR for the Maternity Benefit Act.

The Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 protects the employment of women at the time of her maternity. It entitles women employees of maternity benefits which is fully paid wages during the absence from work and to take care of her child. This Act is applicable to the establishments employing 10 or more employees. To be eligible to be entitled for maternity benefits under the Maternity Benefit Act, a woman must be working as an employee in an establishment for a period of at least 80 days in the past 12 months.

Pregnancy discrimination comes under sex discrimination and it occurs when an employer treats a woman differently based on pregnancy, childbirth or related conditions. A woman can experience pregnancy discrimination at any point during a pregnancy or after child birth.

How can you prove Pregnancy discrimination if you’re fired due to pregnancy?

  1. In some cases, there are direct evidences like if a manager comes right out and says “We can’t hire you because you’re pregnant and we don’t want a pregnant woman working at the front desk”.

However, in many cases, the evidences are circumstantial. Like –

  • If your employer fires you for “performance problems” right before your due dates. For examples, when other workers have been warned about their own performance problems without being fired or if you don’t have any performance problems.
  • If your employer fires you as soon as it becomes public knowledge that you’re pregnant, you’re fired just before you’re supposed to take pregnancy leave or you’re fired after meeting the CEO when you’re pregnant.
  • If you’re treated differently than other employees are, that could be sigh of pregnancy discrimination. Likewise, if all the other women in your office have been fired after becoming pregnant or having a baby, and now you’re unemployed too. This could be a sign that your employer has a pattern of discrimination.

A woman is entitled to 12 weeks of maternity leave under this Act. Not more than 8 weeks of which shall be taken before the due date. Woman who meet the requirements for maternity leave outlined in the legislation are entitled to maternity benefits at the rate of the average daily salary for the time that they are really absent from work. And according to the law, every woman is entitled to maternity benefits and the option of receiving a medical bonus from her employer in the event that neither prenatal nor postpartum care is provided by the latter at no cost to the employee. The employer is responsible for paying all the debts, including maternity benefits to the woman’s nominee or legal representative in the even of her death.

The Employer cannot force a woman to work or hire a any known women in place for the 6 weeks immediately following the day of the employee’s delivery, miscarriage or medical termination of pregnancy. No woman shall work in company during the 6 weeks immediately following the day the employee’s delivery, miscarriage or medical termination of pregnancy unless requested to do so by the woman herself.

As per Article 14, Right to equality and Article 21 – Right to Life , every female has a right to continue with her services along with paid maternity leaves. But in case of contractual based service, some companies are taking undue advantage of exploiting the condition of a pregnant lady. Pregnancy discrimination not only violates the fundamental right but violates the rights guarantted in Maternity Benefit Act, Industrial Disputes Act, Factories Act and Indian Contracts Act (Illegal termination). Human rights means the rights relating to life, liberty, equality and dignity of the individual guaranteed by the Constitution or embodied in the International Covenants and enforceable by courts in India as stated in section 2(d) of human rights act 1993.

Steps that can be taken for such illegal termination/Pregnancy discrimination.

STEP 1: Write a letter to human rights commission with enclosure of employment letter and termination letter, stating the complete detailed unjust act along with dates. Human Rights Commission would recommend the government to take strict action against the Company. Keep CC to Ministry of Corporate Affairs, in order to show the unethical practices carried out by that Private Ltd. Co. because in any case it will be listed in the website of MCA.

STEP 2: File a civil suit alleging illegal termination of contract, court will grant compensation.

STEP 3: File simultaneously a private complaint (directly) to Judicial Magistrate First Class for harassment and violation of human rights as well as right to freedom of occupation under Article 19 of Indian constitution, also violation of Article 21.

STEP 4: Go to Labour office and meet Chief Labour Commissioner or Assistant or Additional Labour Commissioner and state your grievance.

STEP 5: Meet the inspectors notified in a gazette under Maternity Benefit Act as every district has labour office, find the notified “inspector” of Maternity Benefit Act, 1963.

These are certain rights which everyone should be aware of. If you face any problems or injustice regarding the same, Advoker is here to help you to seek remedy and peace.

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