Written by Pritam Pal Singh
Employers cannot deny childcare leave to a new mother post-delivery, and it is up to the institution or organisation to make alternative arrangement for the time she is on leave. This observation, made by the Delhi High Court, came to the aid of a private school teacher recently.
The court set aside the school management’s order declining her request, and Justice Sunil Gaur noted that though childcare leave cannot be claimed as a matter of right and has to be with the approval of the authority concerned, the “reason put forth for treating the childcare leave sought as extraordinary leave is without any justification”.
“The petitioner (the woman) had proceeded on maternity leave in February 2017 and by that time, it was known to the respondent-school that she will not be able to join for quite some time. In such a situation, respondent-school ought to have made alternate arrangements so far as studies of the students is concerned,” the court noted.
It noted that it was “difficult to understand how grant of childcare leave to the petitioner would disrupt functioning of the respondent-school”.
“In any case, this court is of the considered opinion that denial of childcare leave to the petitioner is wholly unjustified and gives no occasion to the respondent-school to treat the childcare leave as extraordinary leave. Accordingly, the order (of the school) is hereby quashed, with direction to respondent-school to grant childcare leave to the petitioner for the period in question — from August 10, 2017 to May 16, 2018 — and not to treat the said leave as extraordinary leave,” the court added.
The court’s order came on a 38-year-old mother’s plea seeking directions to a private school in central Delhi to grant her childcare leave so she could support her newborn, who she said was feeble and dependent on her for feeding.
He counsel Avneesh Garg informed the court that she had written to the school, informing them that her maternity leave will expire on August 10, and requesting that it be extended by 280 days.
She said in her application to the school that her in-laws are suffering from various ailments and there is no one to take care of her child, so it is not possible for her to immediately join the school after the maternity leave.
The school management, in November 2017, rejected her request and observed that it would disrupt the functioning of the school. The school also noted that it would be adverse to the interest of students as the school has to make alternative arrangements due to absence of a regular teacher.