Maternity benefits applicable to contract employees too, rules Kerala HC

The Kerala High Court on Wednesday ruled that female officers appointed on a contract basis are entitled to the benefit of the Maternity Benefit Act.

The petitioner was appointed as a lecturer, on a contract basis, at the Centre for Professional and Advanced Studies (CPAS), formed to take over the self-financing institutions under Mahatma Gandhi University in Kottayam.

In 2014, she was granted maternity leave for 180 days and the entire leave period was sanctioned with allowances.

Her appointment was later renewed for a further three years with effect from March 2015. During the course of the employment, the petitioner conceived once again and she applied for maternity leave for 180 days.

As per the Special Rules framed by CPAS, which were approved by the state, though maternity leave is provided for 180 days, maternity leave benefit has been limited to 90 days.

Therefore, the CPAS sanctioned maternity leave for 180 days but limited leave with allowance to 90 days.

The woman contested this decision and a division bench of the court also ruled that the special rules of a registered society cannot override the provisions of a Central Act.

“The term ‘establishment’ referred to in the Maternity Benefit Act can be any and every establishment within the meaning of any law for the time being in force in the state in relation to establishments. For instance, the Payment of Subsistence Allowance Act, 1972 (Kerala) is a law in force in the state of Kerala which defines ‘establishment’, as one where service is carried on also as in the case of the establishments of the second respondent (CPAS),” the court said.

A single judge had earlier held that the petitioner was entitled to maternity leave with allowance for 180 days notwithstanding the taking over of the self-financing institutions of the Mahatma Gandhi University by the CPAS.

The CPAS challenged this order before the division bench.

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