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Employers must ensure that delivering and raising a child is not detrimental to female officer’s career: Kerala High Court

The Kerala High Court ruled that the employer must make every effort to show that they are sympathetic to the female officer’s cause in order for her to fulfil her potential at work through Justice Raja Vijayaraghavan V in the case of Naziya B. v. State of Kerala (WP(C) NO. 26904 OF 2021)

FACTS OF THE CASE:

The petitioners were refused maternity benefits while employed as contract programmers (IT) at the Kerala University of Health Sciences. They addressed the court with a Writ Petition under Article 226 of the Indian Constitution challenging the respondents’ stance.

The first petitioner was hired as a Programmer at the second respondent University for a year. After the stipulated period expired, the second respondent renewed the contract by 179 days at a time, with a two-day break in between. With effect from 2.7.2012, the second petitioner began working as a Programmer for the second respondent. With effect from 21.8.2017, the third petitioner joined the services of the second respondent on a contract basis and on a consolidated salary. With effect from 21.8.2017, the third petitioner joined the services of the second respondent on a contract basis and on a consolidated salary.

While working as aforesaid, the petitioners have all applied for maternity leave and the same was granted by the 2nd respondent. However, the petitioners were denied any allowance. The petitioners contended that the request for maternity leave with benefits was rejected by the 2nd respondent initially on the ground that the contract period was for period of 179 days which is less than one year.

JUDGEMENT:

The maternity benefit was previously refused on the grounds that female officers hired on a contract for a year or less were ineligible for maternity leave.

The Court took notice of the fact that, regardless of the length of the contract, up to 180 days of paid maternity leave in accordance with Rule 100, Part I KSR had been given. No officer shall be entitled to the aforementioned benefits unless she has “actually” worked for the company for a period of not less than 80 days immediately before her projected due date or date of miscarriage, according to a caveat imposed by the government.

The Supreme Court decision in Municipal Corporation of Delhi v. Female Workers, AIR 2000 SC 1274 was cited, in which female workers (Muster roll) employed by the Municipal Corporation of Delhi demanded maternity leave, which was granted only to regular female workers but denied to them on the grounds that their services had not been regularized. According to the Supreme Court, women, who make up over half of our society, must be honored and treated with dignity in areas where they work to earn a living. Whatever the nature of their tasks, career, or workplace, they must be given all of the amenities to which they are entitled.

The bench stated that being a mother is the most natural event in a woman’s life. The employer must be courteous and sympathetic to the cause of the female officer, and no action shall be made to diminish the dignity of the female employee at work.

As a result, the impugned order was quashed insofar as it denied maternity benefits.

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JUDGEMENT REVIEWED BY REETI SHETTY

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