Even contract staff entitled to maternity leave: Karnataka HC

The petitioner, whose application for maternity leave had been rejected, was issued a notice to report to duty, failing which she was terminated.

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The Karnataka High Court recently ruled that even contract staff are entitled to maternity leave. The petitioner, B.S. Rajeswari, was appointed as project information officer on contract basis, in 2009. Her contract was being renewed every year, and the last renewal happened for the period April 2019 to March 2020. However, in June 2019, the petitioner applied for maternity leave, in response to which she was issued a notice asking her to report to duty.

When she failed to report for duty, an order was issued in August, terminating her service and bringing to an end the contract she had entered into at the time of appointment as project information officer.

The Karnataka HC, however, held that even though she was a contract employee, she was entitled to six months’ maternity leave, as the Maternity Act does not “classify or qualify a mother to be, a government servant, temporary employee, employee on contract basis or an employee on daily wages.”

The 2017 amendment to the Maternity Benefit Act rules allows a pregnant woman maternity leave of 26 weeks, that is, six months and 15 days. Therefore, the Court ruled that the petitioner should be granted back wages. The state government has been ordered to pay Rs 25,000 to the woman and orders have been given to reinstate her within two weeks, with 50 per cent back wages from the date her agreement was cancelled until the date of reinstatement.

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