Kerala HC reinstates woman fired from job for taking maternity leave
The High Court said it could not permit such an attitude in this century.
The Kerala High Court has reinstated a woman who was fired from her job in 2020 because she went on maternity leave without authorisation, Bar and Bench reported on Friday.
Vandana Sreemadha worked as a counsellor at the Office of the District Child Protection Officer in Kollam on contract basis. She was first appointed to the post in 2016 and her employment contract was extended till August 21, 2020, one year at a time.
The High Court, while setting aside her termination, noted that only a woman knew how tough it was to balance a career and motherhood, according to Live Law.
“Life as a new mother is like being on a roller-coaster and being a working mother is tougher,” Justice Devan Ramachandran said. “The minutiae of motherhood can never be properly contemplated and it involves navigation through myriad daily issues, which ultimately determine the health and future of the child.”
The judge said it was scientifically proven that a mother essentially had to be close to her child. “This, primarily and inter alia, is why the provisions for maternity leave are now internationally accepted,” he added.
Lawyer Sunil Kumar Kuriakose, who appeared for the Kerala government, argued that Sreemadha was not entitled to maternity leave since she had not been in service for a year or more, Bar and Bench reported.
The lawyer only took into consideration the period from August 23, 2020, to January 17, 2021, the latest extension of her contract, and not her preceding years of service. She had gone on leave in November 2020.
However, the court pointed out that the woman was on the job for several years, even though she took a one or two-day break whenever her contract was renewed.
The Kerala High Court pulled up the woman’s employers for their decision to terminate her services. “The order impugned in this writ petition can only undermine the confidence and morale of persons like the petitioner, who bravely face the challenges of life every day,” the judge said, according to Bar and Bench.
Ramachandran added: “Without requirement for any elaboration, this attitude is not one which this court can countenance in this century, when women essay several roles, take on variegated responsibilities and require to be adept multitaskers, to survive and find wings to achieve their legitimate ambitions.”
The judge said he hoped that women who juggle multiple roles receive ample support and encouragement.