A Full Bench of the Uttarakhand High Court has re-affirmed that government employees appointed on contract cannot be denied maternity or child care leave (CCL) only on account of their being contractual workers, as opposed to regular employees.
The Bench of Chief Justice Ramesh Ranganathan and Justices Sudhanshu Dhulia and Alok Kumar Verma on Friday held as follows in case of child care leave :
- Child care leave should be for the same number of days as an earned leave which a regular employee gets in a year.
- This was in view of the Government Order issued by the State Government in May 2011 where it was mentioned that the CCL shall be treated on the same footing as earned leave, and will be sanctioned in the same manner.
- As per this GO, State Government employees are entitled for 31 days of earned leave in a year.
- Applying the same principle, the Court held that an employee whose entire employment is for one year, if he/she fulfils the other parameters given in the May 2011 GO (i.e. she has two children, who are less than 18 years of age) will also be entitled for the child care leave for 31 days.
- The May 2011 GO stipulates that CCL shall not be given as a matter of right, and no one will go on CCL without its proper sanction. The same principle shall be applicable for a contractual employee as well.
- Normally child care leave should not be denied. It could only be denied by the employer on very pressing valid and plausible reasons, which must be specifically stated, when such a request for child care leave is being denied.
Since the State-specified period of 730 days child care leave may exceed the term of the worker’s contract, the Court added that contractual workers employed for a shorter term of 1 year can only avail 31 days child care leave. This is on par with the number of “earned” or “paid” leaves available to government employees as per the directives issued by the Uttarakhand Government.
“… even a person employed on contractual basis is entitled for child care leave, but this is with a rider. A contractual employee whose employment is only for one year, cannot be granted child care leave for 730 days. Such an employee can be granted paid child care leave for 31 days, on the same terms and principles as “earned leave”, as is given to other employees in G.O. dated 30.05.2011.”
The Court was infromed that as far as Central Government employees are concerned, CCL may now also be available to single fathers as well.
The case before the Court concerned a plea by an Ayurvedic doctor engaged by the State Medical and Health Services on a contract basis. After having availed the six-month maternity leave sanctioned to her, the woman employee did not join back to service but instead applied for child care leave.
However, her request was denied. The Government’s order of May 2011 stated that child care leave could only be given to a “regular Government employee” and not contractual employees.
This prompted the woman to move the High Court, while also relying on the Court’s 2015 Division Bench judgment in Dr. Shanti Mehra Vs. State of Uttarakhand, wherein it was held that even contractual employees are entitled to the child care leave of 730 days specified in the 2011 GO.
The Full Bench ruled in favour of the woman employee and directed that the matter be placed before the Division Bench for further appropriate orders.
“We have absolutely no doubt in our mind that even a contractual employee engaged for a period of 12 months is entitled for a child care leave and this entitlement has to be read in the Government order dated 30.05.2011 itself.”