An HRs ultimate guide to maternity leave and healthcare benefits

Maternity benefits are crucial for the health and well-being of women employees. Pregnancy comes with various health concerns and complications, which do not allow women to continue working at the same pace. Maternity benefits ensure the continued participation of women in the workforce without discriminating on the grounds of gender. However, there are many different aspects to maternity benefits that human resources need to take care of. Here is an ultimate guide to maternity leave and healthcare benefits to highlight the same.

Ultimate guide to maternity leave and healthcare benefits

Know the law 

All legal requirements are mandatory to follow for maternity benefits. HRs must keep these laws in mind while providing maternity benefits. Indian maternity policy is in the Maternity Benefit Act of 1961, amended by the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act of 2017. The key provisions of the Act are: 

ultimate guide to maternity leave

  • Paid Maternity Leave: As per the current law, women are entitled to a paid maternity leave for twenty-six weeks. Women can avail of this leave as per their requirements before or after childbirth. However, only eight weeks of paid leave is granted before childbirth.  
  • Paid leave for miscarriage: In case of miscarriage or any other medical illness arising out of pregnancy, women are entitled to 6 weeks of paid leave.  
  • Work From Home Facility: A woman can work from home even after 26 weeks, depending on the kind of work, if it is necessary.  
  • Creche Facilities: If your workspace has more than 50 employees, you will have to provide creche facilities for the baby.  

Not following these guidelines can have criminal and civil penalties. Therefore, it is crucial to be well-versed with the laws to avoid any legal sanctions and penalties.  

Formulate a policy 

Every company should have a comprehensive policy that lays down all details about maternity benefits. An HR must formulate and draft such a policy and ensure it is accessible to everyone. The policy should follow all the legal requirements and additional details. Roughly a policy should have the following elements:  

  • Procedure: This section should explain the procedures a woman must follow to avail of the maternity cover. This will include the documents required, the notice period, and other guidelines. 
  • Maternity Benefits: Even though the law explicitly states the benefits a woman is entitled to, the company policy needs to mention the same to avoid any confusion and ambiguity.  
  • Grievance Redressal: In case of any issues with providing maternity benefits, there must be a grievance redressal mechanism. So that women can complain about any lapses. 

Provide flexibility  

Apart from the legal mandates, it is vital to allow flexibility for your employees to adjust to the work better and be productive. A one size fits all approach may not work for everyone as the conditions and health of every individual are different. For example, one woman may be comfortable in resuming offline upon the completion of 26 weeks. But some may require work-from-home benefits due to their health or personal reasons. It is essential to be sensitive to these issues, to better accommodate the needs of the employees.  

The law states the bare minimum requirement for maternity healthcare benefits. However, there is no harm in providing some additional flexible options on a case-to-case basis, ensuring that both the company and the employees do not suffer due to unnecessary stress.  

Many small companies often feel that maternity benefits can turn out expensive and unviable for the company. Providing flexibility and explaining the situation to the employees with full transparency can help in such scenarios. However, all flexibilities provided must be in writing to avoid confusion in the future.  

Additional Benefits 

The law on maternity benefits only provides for the most crucial elements of maternity leaves. However, as per the nature of employment, some additional benefits can and must be considered by HR to ensure a smooth continuation of work. Some such benefits are:  

  • Paternity Leave: As per the law, maternity benefit is provided to women only. However, the same is necessary for men to take care of the family and the newborn. A paternity leave policy can be introduced within the company to provide more flexibility to new fathers too.  
  • Work stress management: Women are often weak after giving birth. Thus, it is essential to keep any health conditions in mind before resuming. For example, if a job requires high physical activity, the same can be reduced and slowly increased to maintain health and well-being. 

Conclusion

Maternity cover and healthcare benefits are mandatory and crucial for the functioning of any company. This ultimate guide to maternity leave and healthcare benefits can help HRs to provide a robust mechanism and assistance to parents.