Contractual staff can’t be deprived of maternity rights/benefits: Delhi HC

The court found that the petitioner’s employer had unjustly terminated her without prior notice, while she was on maternity leave


Emphasising the significance of maternity rights, the Delhi High Court stated that no woman employee can be deprived of this right based on the nature of employment.

The case involved a female attendant working on a temporary basis at a Delhi University hostel. According to her petition, her contract was extended for six months, from 2 July to 31 December of 2022. During this period, she requested maternity leave, which was granted by the authorities and was scheduled from 5 May  to 4 November.

Nonetheless, the woman did not receive her salary during her maternity leave period. Subsequently, she was informed that her employment had been terminated, and she had been permanently replaced.

She also mentioned that she approached the concerned authorities several times but no action was taken.

After reviewing the petition, the court observed that the institution in question had unjustly terminated the petitioner without issuing any prior notice. Moreover, the bench noted that withholding these benefits is inhuman and violates the Fundamental Rights.

In a bench of a single judge, Justice Chandra Dhari Singh asserted the petitioner was informed of the abrupt termination of her employment only when she returned to the respondent institution after her maternity leave. Therefore, the High Court instructed the authorities to re-employ the woman in her former position or any other role she qualifies for, and directed them to disburse the maternity benefits in accordance with the 1961 Act within a four-week timeframe. The court also granted the petitioner a compensation of Rs 50,000.

This isn’t the first time Delhi HC has ruled in favour of women seeking maternity rights. The earlier caseinvolved 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. Furthermore, the court ruled 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.

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