Kerala HC: Contract Employees also Entitled to Maternity Leave of 180 Days

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March 23, 2018

Case name: Rakhi P.V. & Ors. v. State of Kerala & Anr.

Date of Judgement: March 13, 2018

A crucial issue pertaining to maternity leave of women employees employed in projects on contractual basis was raised in the case. The State’s main contention while denying 26 weeks/180 days maternity leave to petitioners in the case was that women employees working on a contract basis under state funded projects were entitled to maternity leave of 90 days only.

In the case, the petitioners being women employees, had applied for maternity leave during the period of their employment and were accordingly granted maternity leave of 135 days. The petitioner contended that going by the provisions of the Kerala Service Rules (KSR) as well as the provisions of the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961, every woman employee working in any establishment is entitled to maternity leave of 180 days.

Also read Key Features of Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act, 2016

Bench’s verdict

The Kerala High Court in the case granted relief to the Petitioners and made the following observations in the case:

  • That the petitioners are also admittedly women employees working on a contract basis under state funded projects. The benefits of enhanced maternity leave to woman employees is undoubtedly a piece of welfare legislation which is intended to give women equal opportunities in public employment. Thus, the State’s contention that the contract employees under the projects are entitled only to 90 days of maternity leave cannot be tolerated as it would amount to discrimination against woman employees only for the reason that they are engaged in projects in contractual capacities.
  • That inalienable obligations of maternity should not and cannot be a reason to deny equal opportunities to woman employees. This precisely would be the result of limiting maternity leave to women employees, irrespective of the nature of their employment.
  • That the State’s contention that the contractual appointment of the petitioners have a duration of only one year and the grant of six months paid leave would obliterate the benefit to the project of the engagement is also not tenable because the petitioners are persons who are continuing in service on the basis of successive extension of contract.

The Court in view of the aforesaid held that the Petitioners in the case were entitled to maternity leave as is due to women employees under the Service Rules applicable to State and Central Government servants and to women employees under the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961.

The entire case can be accessed here.