Recenty, the Delhi High Court ruled that women employees under contract are eligible for maternity leave. The case involved a petitioner who served as an empanelled advocate on a contractual basis with the Delhi State Legal Services Authority (DSLSA). She had been denied maternity benefits by her employer. Following the rejection of her request by the organisation, she took her case to the Delhi High Court, where she filed a petition seeking maternity benefits to be extended to contractual employees.
Following the court hearing, Justice Chandra Dhari Singh issued a decree emphasising the importance of creating a supportive work environment that allows women to make choices without compromising their career or motherhood aspirations. The order underscored that it is a woman’s constitutional right to pursue both a professional and personal life, and workplaces should strive to foster an atmosphere conducive to these choices.
The court’s ruling stated that maternity benefits are not simply a matter of statutory entitlement or contractual obligation between an employer and employee. Instead, they are an intrinsic and fundamental aspect of a woman’s identity and dignity when she decides to start a family and become a mother.
Furthermore, the judgement stressed the need to ensure that women in society feel safe and secure, allowing them to make decisions independently regarding their personal and professional lives. The work environment should enable women to make these decisions without one aspect negatively affecting the other. Ultimately, the goal is to prevent women from being forced into making an ‘either-or’ choice between pursuing a career and embracing motherhood.
In June, the state government of Sikkim implemented a significant policy change, granting its employees the privilege of a full year of maternity leave. Furthermore, male employees will be entitled to a generous paternity leave of one month.
On a related note, the Telangana state government has taken a commendable step by introducing paid maternity leave for accredited social health activists (ASHA) workers. This noteworthy decision was officially announced by T Harish Rao, the state health minister, during a comprehensive review meeting focused on ASHA workers and auxiliary nurse midwives (ANMs).