The Madras High Court has said that there should be no discrimination between regularised married women staff and non-regularised ones in the government workforce, when it comes to allowing them maternity leave.
Several government departments and officials have been accused of ‘maternity harassment’ in the petition, for delaying maternity leave approval for contractual and non-regularised employees, in violation of the Constitution.
The first bench of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice P D Audikesavalu directed that the government provide proper direction with regard to the grant of maternity leave benefit uniformly to all married regularised and non-regularised government staff, as well as those on contract.
The petitioner had rightly argued that the physical and mental pain along with the associated expenditure and financial pressure faced by all pregnant women are the same, whether they are on the rolls of the government or on contract, or whether they are regularised or not. Therefore, the maternity leave benefit should apply to all of them uniformly.
The PIL from advocate C Rajaguru demanded that the Health and Family Welfare Department, Directorates of Medical and Rural Health Services (DMS), Public Health and Preventive Medicine (DPHS) and the office of the Joint Director of Health Services, Government District Headquarters Hospital Campus in Villupuram district, be ordered to immediately take action to clear the pending maternity leave applications from the regularised and non-regularised married women government staff — who were appointed under emergency provisions, on temporary and contractual basis, and who had completed a year of continuous service — and grant them maternity benefits as per a GO of July 2020.
The four government departments cited in the petition have been accused of discrimination and indifferent consideration, and thus, violating Article 14 of the Constitution.