26-week maternity leave for women contract employees

High Court says they are entitled to get leave on a par with govt employees

Published - March 19, 2018 07:38 pm IST - KOCHI

In a significant verdict, the Kerala High Court has ruled that women contract employees working in government funded projects are entitled to 26 weeks of maternity leave as applicable to women employees under the service rules.

Justice Anu Sivaraman made the ruling while allowing a writ petition filed by P.V. Rakhi and other resource teachers working under the inclusive Education for Disabled Secondary Stage under the Rashtriya Madhyamic Siksha Abhiyan of the MHRD.

The court pointed out that the petitioners were also admittedly women employees working on a contract basis under the State-funded project.

The enhanced maternity leave to women employees was undoubtedly a piece of welfare legislation which was intended to give women equal opportunities in public employment. Besides, it was not in dispute that women employees directly employed by the government would be entitled to 180 days of maternity leave, going by the provisions of the KSR.

The court further observed that the contention of the State government that the contract employees under the projects were entitled only to 90 days of maternity leave could not be countenanced, since it would amount to discrimination against women employees only for the reason that they were engaged in projects in contractual capacities, the court observed.

The State government contended that the petitioners were not entitled to 26 weeks of maternity leave as provided in the Maternity Benefit Act or 180 days of leaves provided under the Kerala Service Rules, as the petitioners were contract employees under a project under the centrally-sponsored scheme.

It was also submitted that even teachers under the scheme as well as under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan were entitled only to three months of maternity leave.

The court also observed that the inalienable obligations of maternity “should not and cannot be a reason to deny equal opportunities to women employees”.

The court termed as untenable the State government’s submission that the contractual appointment of the petitioners had a duration of only one year and the grant of six months paid leave would obliterate the benefit to the project of engagement as the petitioners were continuing in service on the basis of the successive extensions of the contracts.

The court directed the State government to grant 26 weeks of maternity leave to the petitioners.

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