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Kerala HC holds that contract employees in Government funded establishments entitled to same maternity leave as government employees

In a significant judgment, the Kerala High Court on Tuesday held that even contract employees in government funded establishments are entitled to six months maternity leave as is being granted to State Government employees.

The decision, pronounced by the single judge bench of Justice Anu Sivaraman, came in a writ petition filed by women working on contract basis with the Additional Skill Acquisition Programme under the Higher Education Department of the Government of Kerala and the Inclusive Education for Disabled Secondary Stage under the Rashtriya Madhyamic Siksha Abhiyan of the MHRD. The petitioners submitted that they were given maternity leave only for 135 days in the former case and 12 weeks in the latter. They contended that under the provisions of the Kerala Service Rules as well as the Maternity Benefits Act, 1961, every woman employee is entitled to maternity leave of 180 days and hence they were entitled to the same.

The benefits of enhanced maternity leave to woman employees  is undoubtedly apiece of welfare legislation which is intended to give women equal opportunities in public employment. In the above view of the matter, the contention raised to the effect that the contract employees under the projects are entitled only to 90 days of maternity leave, according to me, cannot be countenanced, since it would amount to discrimination against woman employees only for the reason that they are engaged in projects in contractual capacities. The inalienable obligations of maternity should not and cannot be a reason to deny equal opportunities to woman employees. This precisely would be the result of limiting maternity leave to women employees, irrespective of the nature of their employment. The further contention to the effect that the contractual appointment of the petitioners have a duration of only one year and the grant of six months paid leave would obliterate the benefit to the project of the engagement is also not tenable because the petitioners are persons who are continuing in service on the basis of successive extension of contract. The contention therefore can have no application in the instant cases.

The Court referred to the Kerala High Court’s earlier judgment in Mini v. Life Insurance Corporation of India [2018 (1) KLT 530], and held that the petitioners will be entitled to maternity leave as is due to women employees under the State Rules and the Maternity Benefit Act.

Read the judgment below:

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