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 Madhyamik Shiksha 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 Kerala Service Rules.
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.