Empathy in Employment: Bombay High Court’s Ruling for Pregnant Workers

In a recent ruling, the Bombay High Court underscored the obligation of employers to display empathy towards pregnant employees, emphasizing the importance of granting maternity benefits. The directive came as the court addressed a case involving the Airports Authority of India (AAI) and a woman, who petitioned against the denial of maternity benefits by AAI.

The division bench comprising Justices AS Chandurkar and Jitendra Jain made this assertion while considering the woman’s challenge to the rejection of maternity benefits, which was based on the assertion that she did not meet the eligibility criteria for maternity leave. The case in hand is Airport Authority of India Workers Union & Anr. v. Union of India & Anr.

Here’s what happened:

  • The Bombay High Court directed the Airports Authority of India (AAI) to provide maternity benefits to a woman, emphasizing the entitlement of female workers to all facilities, regardless of their job duties.
  • The Court stressed the importance of honoring and treating women with dignity in their workplace, recognizing motherhood as a natural aspect of a woman’s life.
  • The petitioner, who secured a job with AAI on compassionate grounds after her husband’s death, gave birth to her third child in 2012 and applied for maternity benefits.
  • AAI rejected her claim, citing her two surviving children as grounds for ineligibility, which the Court deemed unjustifiable.
  • The Court clarified that the Maternity Leave Regulation of 2003 aims to grant maternity leave benefits, not to control population growth.
  • It noted that the condition of two surviving children is to limit maternity benefits to ensure the organization’s operational continuity, not to restrict individual rights.
  • Despite having a child in 2009, the petitioner hadn’t previously applied for maternity benefits, which the Court considered in its decision.
  • The Court concluded that AAI’s denial of maternity benefits was unjustified and ordered them to grant the benefits to the woman.
  • AAI was instructed to comply with the Court’s directive within eight weeks from the date of the ruling.
  • This case underscores the judiciary’s commitment to upholding the rights of pregnant workers and ensuring their fair treatment in the workplace.

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About the Author: Payal Singh