Kerala High Court reaffirmed that even contractual employees are entitled to Maternity Benefits. Laws in India allows every working pregnant woman certain benefits such as paid leave of absence from work for a fixed period of time to look after new-born babies before and after their birth.
Facts Of The Case And Arguments Advanced
In this case the Petitioner has been working as an Assistant Professor of Medical Microbiology on contractual basis in School of Health Sciences, Calicut University for almost a decade. Petitioner’s request for maternity benefits was rejected by the university because according to the employment agreement of the Petitioner, she was not entitled to any such benefits. Upset by this decision, Petitioner filed a writ petition in the Kerala High Court seeking an order directing the Calicut University to grant her maternity benefits. The main issue before the High Court was
Whether a contractual employee is entitled to maternity benefits or not?
Learned Counsel representing the University argued that according to the clause 11 of the employment agreement of the Petitioner she could at best claim 15 days casual leave during a period of one year and abstain from duty on account of medical conditions of maternity.
Verdict Of The Case
Learned Single Judge of Kerala High Court, Justice A Muhamed Mushtaq rejected the argument of counsel of the Calicut University and held that even contractual employees are entitled to maternity benefits. Learned Single Judge relied on two judgments to come to this conclusion, namely, Mini v. Life insurance Corporation of India and Rakhi P.V& Ors. v. State of Kerala.
In Rakhi’s case, it was clearly held “that a woman employee cannot be denied maternity benefits merely because her status is of a contractual employee. Therefore, the University is bound to grant such benefits notwithstanding anything contained in the agreement of contract.”
Furthermore, Judge also said that
“The maternity benefit is not merely a statutory benefit or a benefit flowing out of an agreement. This court consistently held that it is attached with the dignity of a woman. A woman cannot be compelled to choose between motherhood and employment “ On the basis of judgments and the view cited above Court directed the University to pay to the petitioner maternity benefits as it would have in case of other employees of the University within two months.