CAT observed that it is a fact that temporary, ad hoc or contract employees do not enjoy the same benefits as a regular employee but request for maternity leave stood on a different footing.
In a significant ruling, the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) has said that temporary, ad hoc and contract women employees are also entitled to maternity leave and consequent benefits akin to regular staff.
One Anuradha Arya, a guest teacher at Government Girl’s Senior Secondary School, West Patel Nagar (New Delhi) had moved the CAT under section 19 of the Administrative Tribunals Act saying she has been denied grant of maternity leave and benefits as per the maternity benefit Act, 1961 by the Respondents.
Arya was also orally told that she has been terminated after she was forced to take the maternity leave without permission from the school.
The ruling is set to benefit lakhs of working women across the country,
“In view of the discussions above, I am of the view that benefits of maternity leave with full salary cannot be denied to a female employee appointed on contractual basis. This view finds support in various judgments of the Hon‟ble Apex Court cited above. The applicant is entitled to maternity leave as per provision of Section 5 of the maternity benefit Act, 1961. I, accordingly allow this OA with the following direction to the respondents: “The applicant may be allowed to resume service as a guest teacher in terms of her original engagement letter dated 07.07.2015. The respondents shall give the back wages to the applicant w.e.f. 01.12.2015 till the disposal of this application with all consequential benefits for the academic year 2015-2016,” said the judgment by CAT Member Praveen Mahajan.
The school had cited service rules to say that six month’s paid maternity leave was available only to regular teachers and not ad- hoc/temporary/contract teachers
Arya’s lawyer Amit K Pateria emphasized before the CAT that the applicant is entitled to the maternity benefit upto 2nd pregnancy as per the statutory law on the subject. “This was the first issue of the applicant and she had applied for maternity leave for the first time”, he argued.
The ad hoc employees, he argued are not precluded from availing maternity leave and thus action of the respondents is discriminatory under Article 42 of Constitution of India.
The CAT observed that it is a fact that temporary, ad hoc or contract employees do not enjoy the same benefits as a regular employee but requests for maternity leave stood on a different footing.
“it is important to record that a consistent view has been taken by the courts, and rightly so, that contractual employees cannot be equated with regular employees. The benefits accruing to an adhoc employee, are necessarily different than those admissible to a regular employee. The contention of the respondents, and their rejection order dated 31.08.2015 of maternity leave to the applicant is based on this very premise. While this may be true in all other cases of ad hoc employees, the nature of the “benefit” being claimed by the applicant in the instant OA, cannot be routinely clubbed, or, equated to any “other benefit” being claimed by an ad hoc employee. Grant of the benefit of maternity leave to a woman employee, whether ad hoc or regular, has to be dealt with on a different footing”, it said.
The CAT based its ruling on a Supreme Court judgment of 2000 (3) SCC 224 in the case of „Municipal Corporation of Delhi Vs. Female Workers(Muster Roll) and another‟ which said women who constitute almost half of the segment of the society have to be honoured and treated with dignity at cases where they work to earn their livelihood”.
“To become a mother is the most natural phenomenon in the life of a woman. Whatever is needed to facilitate the birth of child to a woman who is in service, the employer has to be considerate and sympathetic towards her and must realize the physical difficulties which a working woman would face in performing her duties at the workplace while carrying a baby in a womb or while rearing up the child after birth”, the Supreme Court had said.
Arya had joined the school on September 15, 2014 and her appointment was renewed in July 2015. At that time her pregnancy was at an advanced stage.
Her request for maternity leave was rejected by the Principal.
She later submitted several representations to other school authorities.
Arya was advised complete bed rest by her doctor. Under the circumstances, while she awaited response from school authorities, she was left with no other option than taking maternity leave.
She was also worried that the academic session was about to come to end and the school will start engaging ad hoc teachers for the next academic session of 2016-17.